A recent study is giving yet another reason to take folic acid supplements during pregnancy, especially for any moms-to-be who are epileptic.
We already know the benefit of folic acid, a man-made form of vitamin B, when it comes to pregnancy. The chemical is known to have a protective effect on fetuses in preventing Spina Bifida, and recent research shows that it may even protect a child’s mental health for years after they’re born.
Now there’s more news on the benefits of taking folic acid during pregnancy, specifically for mothers with epilepsy.
A study from Norway has found that folic acid can have a similar protective effect on a child’s language development for mothers that are taking anti-epilepsy medication. These medications have been known to interfere with fetal development that can often lead to a delay in language formation.
"We have shown that if a woman is taking antiepileptic drugs and has not used folic acid, the risk of language delay in the offspring is increased by about four to five times compared with women without epilepsy not taking folic acid," said Elisabeth Husebye, the lead author of the study and a doctor at the University of Bergen, Norway.
"But if the woman has taken folic acid during the period of conception and early pregnancy, that increased risk is reduced to twice that of nonepileptic women, so the increase in risk appears to be halved with folic acid supplementation."
The study surveyed 335 children of mothers who take antiepileptic medications, as well as 104,222 children of mothers without epilepsy. Researchers found that 34% of the children of epileptic mothers who did not take folic acid supplements had delayed language skills at 18 months compared to 11% of children from mothers without epilepsy.
That number fell by half if the epileptic mother took folic acid during her pregnancy.
In the United States, grains are fortified with folic acid, but Dr. Husebye recommends a daily dose of 0.4 mg for epileptic moms. That’s a low dose, but higher than what can normally be eaten in a bowl of spaghetti.
The safety of high doses of folic acid is still being debated amongst medical circles, but that could be the next step for epileptic mothers who want to ensure that their child’s growth remains uninterrupted.
As always, consult with a doctor before taking any new supplements while pregnant (or otherwise) to determine the best course of action for the health of you and your baby.