Folic acid supplements in pregnancy help kids of women with epilepsy

August 1, 2018

(HealthDay)— Drugs taken in pregnancy to prevent epilepsy seizures can raise the risk of language delays in children. But new research shows that folic acid supplements can cut that risk.

One U.S. ob/gyn said the finding has real importance for his younger female patients.

"The risk of language delay was decreased by half—the benefit of in this situation is striking," said Dr. Mitchell Kramer, who wasn't involved in the new study.

"It's important to advise pregnant women to take folic acid supplementation in their diets in general, but it is especially important in women being treated for epilepsy," said Kramer, who directs obstetrics and gynecology at Huntington Hospital, in Huntington, N.Y.

The new Norwegian trial included 335 of with epilepsy who took while they were pregnant, and more than 104,000 children of mothers without epilepsy.

Continuing epilepsy treatment during pregnancy is important because seizures could harm the fetus and mother, said the research team led by Dr. Elisabeth Synnove Nilsen Husebye, of the University of Bergen.

Among children whose mothers did not take folic acid before and early in pregnancy, delays in language skills at 18 months of age were observed in 34 percent of children whose mothers had epilepsy, the study found. That's compared to just 11 percent for children whose mothers didn't have epilepsy.

By the time children reached 3 years of age, those numbers were still 24 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

Taking seemed to make a big difference, however.

For kids whose mothers took folic acid, delayed language skills at 18 months of age were noted in 17 percent of children whose mothers had epilepsy, compared to 11 percent of those whose mothers did not have epilepsy.

The protective effect of folic acid appeared stronger for babies born to moms with epilepsy.

"Half of the risk of having language delays at 18 months could be attributed to the lack of folic acid in children exposed to epilepsy drugs," Husebye noted, "while in children of mothers without epilepsy only 6 percent of the risk was attributed to the lack of supplements."

"These results are important for women with epilepsy all over the world because many epilepsy drugs interact with the way folate is metabolized by the body, so we are still learning how much folic acid is needed for women with epilepsy and how it benefits their children," Husebye said in a news release from the journal Neurology. Her team published the findings Aug. 1 in the online issue of the journal.

The study was conducted in Norway, where foods do not have to be fortified with folic acid, which is required in the United States. Even so, folic acid supplements are recommended for pregnant women in the United States, experts said.

Dr. Fred Lado stressed that the study wasn't designed to prove cause-and-effect, but "the investigators controlled as much as possible for confounding variables."

"It is already widely accepted in the epilepsy community that folate supplementation reduces the risk of neural tube defects and likely other major birth defects in children of women receiving [epilepsy drugs]," said Lado, who is regional director for epilepsy services at Northwell Health in Queens and Long Island, N.Y.

"Moreover, there appears to be no risk [to] folate supplementation when used at usual doses," he noted.

The new findings "provide evidence that the benefits of folate supplementation extend into post-natal development of children," further strengthening the recommendation that with take the supplement, Lado said.

Explore further: Folic acid lessens autism risk for fetal anti-epileptic exposure

More information: The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on epilepsy and pregnancy.

Related Stories

Folic acid lessens autism risk for fetal anti-epileptic exposure

January 2, 2018
(HealthDay)—For children exposed to antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) in utero, the risk of autistic traits may be mitigated by use of periconceptional folic acid supplementation, according to a study published online Dec. 26 ...

Folic acid during pregnancy could help to prevent autism caused by antiepileptic drugs

June 1, 2016
If pregnant women take antiepileptic drugs, the child can develop autistic traits. The administration of folic acid preparations appears to be a suitable means of preventing this serious side-effect. This finding is suggested ...

Psychological benefits for kids when mums keep taking folic acid

May 4, 2017
Children's emotional intelligence improved if mums take folic acid supplements throughout pregnancy.

Epilepsy drug exposure in womb linked to significantly poorer school test results

March 26, 2018
Exposure to epilepsy drugs in the womb is linked to significantly poorer school test results among 7 year olds, finds research published online in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

Study reveals long-term effects on child IQ of epilepsy drug valproate during pregnancy

January 22, 2013
Research published today in the Lancet Neurology shows that taking the antiepileptic drug valproate during pregnancy affects the IQ of children up to the age of six.

Prenatal vitamins tied to lower autism risk in kids, study finds

January 3, 2018
(HealthDay)—Taking folic acid and multivitamins during pregnancy could reduce your child's risk of autism, a new study suggests.

Recommended for you

Study of protein 'trafficker' provides insight into autism and other brain disorders

September 22, 2018
In the brain, as in business, connections are everything. To maintain cellular associates, the outer surface of a neuron, its membrane, must express particular proteins—proverbial hands that reach out and greet nearby cells. ...

Breast milk may be best for premature babies' brain development

September 21, 2018
Babies born before their due date show better brain development when fed breast milk rather than formula, a study has found.

Early warning sign of psychosis detected

September 21, 2018
Brains of people at risk of psychosis exhibit a pattern that can help predict whether they will go on to develop full-fledged schizophrenia, a new Yale-led study shows. The findings could help doctors begin early intervention ...

White matter repair and traumatic brain injury

September 20, 2018
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of death and disability in the U.S., contributing to about 30 percent of all injury deaths, according to the CDC. TBI causes damage to both white and gray matter in the brain, ...

Gut branches of vagus nerve essential components of brain's reward and motivation system

September 20, 2018
A novel gut-to-brain neural circuit establishes the vagus nerve as an essential component of the brain system that regulates reward and motivation, according to research conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount ...

Genomic dark matter activity connects Parkinson's and psychiatric diseases

September 20, 2018
Dopamine neurons are located in the midbrain, but their tendril-like axons can branch far into the higher cortical areas, influencing how we move and how we feel. New genetic evidence has revealed that these specialized cells ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.