Can folic acid mitigate autism risk for children whose mother has epilepsy?

Folic acid is a form of water soluble vitamin B9. Folic acid supplementation during pregnancy may mitigate possible risks associated with antiepileptic drugs (AED’s). According to a Norwegian study, mothers who take medications to control their seizures without folic acid supplementation during their pregnancy may be placing their unborn children at risk of later displaying autistic traits.

Pregnancy &  Folic Acid
Pregnancy & Folic Acid

The risk for autistic traits was significantly higher at 18 and 36 months of age, when folic acid supplementation was not used in comparison with the mothers who took AED’s and folic acid supplements. So, this study suggests that the degree of autistic traits was inversely associated with the plasma folate concentration of the mother during pregnancy.

Considering that there are a high number of unplanned pregnancies in women with epilepsy, clinicians should consider advocating for low dose daily folic acid supplementation in women of child bearing age who take AED’s. Higher doses are associated with less autistic traits. At least 0.4 mg daily is generally recommended.

It is very sad if children of women on antiepileptic drugs have to live their life with many challenges, of having autistic traits, if it could have been prevented with something as harmless and easily accessible as folic acid supplements. In conclusion, the risk of autistic traits in children exposed to AED’s in utero may be mitigated by periconceptional folic acid supplementation and folate status. Fertile women using AED’s should take folic acid supplements continuously.

Sources of folic acid –

  • Dark leafy greens, add more spinach, collard greens, kale, turnip greens and romaine lettuce into your daily diet. It will provide an immediate boost in folic acid.
  • Asparagus is one of the most nutrient dense foods with folic acid.
  • Broccoli is one of the best detox foods you can eat, and it’s a great source of folic acid.
  • Citrus Fruits, like papaya, grapefruit, grapes, banana, cantaloupe and strawberries. Oranges are an especially rich source of folic acid.
  • Beans, Peas, and Lentils
  • Avocado
  • Seeds and nuts e.t.c.
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