Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Are you epileptic? Another reason to use folic acid during pregnancy

Most women these days are advised to use a folic acid supplement, even if they are not intending to become pregnant but there is a possibility that they might. In this study, researchers were interested to see if the incidence of birth defects in babies born to women using antiepileptics would be reduced if these women also took folic acid.

The medication history of the mothers of children born with birth defects was compared to the medication history of mothers whose children were not born with birth defects. The particular medication category of interest to these researchers was antiepileptics: carbemazepine (Tegretol), phenobarbital, phenytoin (Dilantin), and primidone (Mysoline).

The researchers found that if the mothers were using any of these medications, and they also used folic acid, that the risk of birth defects was decreased. It is important to note, however, that this risk did not completely go away.

It seems as though some of the best insurance for mothers and potential mothers is a simple folic acid supplement. Also, if you're thinking of becoming pregnant, or sexually active, it's important to let the caregiver managing your epilepsy know this, so that a treatment plan most beneficial to both mother and baby can be implemented.

I have to interject here, one of the most effective natural therapies for epilepsy, is fish oil. I get so frustrated that we encourage pregnant women not to eat fish, but then we seem to be ok giving them medications that might be worse! The recommendations for fish during pregnancy DO NOT say don't eat fish at all. They advise against four types of fish: shark, tilefish, King mackerel, and swordfish. If you're STILL hesitant about eating can either take a supplement that has been molecularly distilled, thereby removing the mercury, or you can use an algal-based supplement that is mercury free.

It's a very simple solution with the potential to put many researchers and drug company employees out of work, but this is not about who gets to work and who gets to make money. The last I heard, working in health care was about keeping people safe and healthy!

Kjaer D, Horvath-Puhó E, Christensen J, Vestergaard M, Czeizel AE, Sørensen HT, Olsen J. Antiepileptic drug use, folic acid supplementation, and congenital abnormalities: a population-based case-control study. BJOG. 2008 Jan;115(1):98-103. Epub 2007 Nov 12.

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