Fertile women should supplement diets with folic acid, study finds
To help mitigate the risk of autistic traits in children exposed to antiepileptic drugs in utero, women may benefit from folic acid supplementation before they get pregnant, according to a late December article published in JAMA Neurology. Fertile women using antiepileptic drugs should take folic acid supplements continuously, the study concluded.
[quote-from-article] “Supplementing with folic acid by women who are pregnant, or capable of becoming pregnant, has proven essential to reduce neural tube birth defects in babies, and this new study demonstrates the potential for additional benefits of continuous folic supplementation," commented Andrea Wong, vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition. "Although this study points to the reduction of autistic traits associated with folic acid supplementation in a specific population — women taking antiepileptic drugs — it underscores the importance for all women capable of becoming pregnant to supplement with folic acid, too. The recommendation for all women of childbearing age to supplement with folic acid is supported by the U.S. Government, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, and should be heeded to promote the health and wellbeing of future children."
In addition to reinforcing the benefits of folic acid supplementation, the study raises the importance of an open dialogue between patients and their doctors or pharmacists. Some pharmaceutical drugs can have interactions with certain dietary supplements. And other medications can create nutrient depletions or side effects that can be mitigated or offset with careful use of dietary supplements. Both occurrences illustrate the need for patients to discuss candidly both their medication and supplement regimens with their doctors or other healthcare practitioners.
According to CRN, folic acid is only one of many essential nutrients that are necessary for a healthy pregnancy. Well-established science has demonstrated that adequate intakes of iodine, choline, omega-3 fatty acids and iron are also critical during pregnancy and help lead to healthier babies.