Pregnant women with epilepsy ‘should continue to take folic acid’

Professor Ley Sander – the medical director of Epilepsy Society – has stated that women with epilepsy should continue taking a daily folic acid supplement before and during pregnancy, despite recent announcements regarding plans to add the vitamin to flour.

The Department of Health (DOH) has been urged to ensure that folic acid is added to flour as a way of reducing the number of birth defects in Britain, including conditions such as spina bifida.

Medical research teams at the Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine at Queen Mary University of London have produced a report which claims that 2,000 cases of disabilities in the UK could have been non-existent since 1998, if flour contained the vitamin.

However, according to Professor Sander, even if folic acid is added to flour it will not be a high enough dose to ensure that women with epilepsy give better protection to their children during pregnancy.

She said: “Folic acid – vitamin B9 – helps a baby’s spine to develop and has been shown to have a protective role in the prevention of neural tube defects of the brain, spine or spinal cord.

“The Department of Health recommends that all women take 0.4mg folic acid before and during their pregnancy, but women with epilepsy need to take a higher dose. This is because it is recognised that there is an increased risk of neural tube defects in children born to mothers taking anti-epileptic medications, particularly sodium valproate and carbamazepine.”

The vitamin is already added to flour in America and 77 other countries across the world, and the DOH is reportedly talking about implementing a change in Britain.

In America, where folic acid has been a flour component since 1998, a 23 per cent drop in the number of pregnancies with neural tube defects has been recorded.

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