Anencephaly is one of the most severe forms of a neural tube defect (NTD). A child born with this particular NTD will not live. They will either be still born or live for a couple of hours and then pass away. There have been some rare instances that the child has lived for days or weeks. This disorder occurs in 1 in every 1,000 live births. There is no cure or treatment for anencephaly and the cause is not known. It is believed that folic acid plays a part in preventing not only anencephaly but most NTD as well.
The neural tube is a developing structure that becomes the brain, skull and spine. Anencephaly occurs when the top portion of the neural tube doesn't close. The result is that the skull doesn't form and therefore the brain is exposed to the amniotic fluid which doesn't let the brain form. The child usually has just the portion of the brain responsible for breathing and staying alive. The infant is born without a forebrain, the thinking and coordinating area, and are usually blind, deaf, unconscious and unable to feel pain. The child may exhibit reflex actions such as respiration and response to touch and sound.