All women urged to take folic acid pills ?just in case' dose protects unplanned babies being born with spina bifida
Health Article: Daily Mail:
All women of childbearing age should take folic acid supplements to prevent any children they have being born with spina bifida, experts have warned. The advice comes after a rise in the number of cases of the disability.
Most women will take the supplements once they realise they are pregnant, but this can often be too late. Spina bifida causes vertebrae in the backbone to form incorrectly, often leading to lower-body paralysis and other damage to the nervous system. Victims can suffer lifelong bowel and bladder problems, and some children have brain damage.
Research suggests that 75 per cent of cases could be prevented by the mother taking folic acid three months before conception and during pregnancy.
The advice to take the vitamin 'just in case' - directed at all sexually active women of childbearing age - comes from experts in Scotland. It has emerged that twice the number of babies with spina bifida have been born there this year than usual.
Dr Margo Whiteford, chairman of the Scottish Spina Bifida Association, said: 'This year we've had as many contacts from families in the first half of the year as we'd expect to see for the full year.
'We don't know if this is down to folic acid but we do know that most women don't take enough folic acid at the right time. Ladies do know about folic acid preventing spina bifida but they wait until they've missed a period before they start taking it.
'The spinal cord develops within the first four weeks of pregnancy so by that stage it's too late - if the baby's going to have spina bifida it will already have developed it.'The Food Standards Agency currently recommends pregnant women take a daily 400-microgram folic acid supplement until the 12th week of pregnancy.
Children of mothers who don't take folic acid ?more likely to have severe language delays'
Health Article: Daily Mail:
Women who fail to take folic acid in early pregnancy could be threatening their child's ability to speak according to scientists. A study has revealed that mothers who don't take the vitamin supplement are twice as likely to have children with severe speech delays.
Experts at Columbia University in New York, say that the results highlight the health benefits of folic acid which is already known to reduce the risk of certain types of birth defects. Around 40,000 Norwegian women were questioned during the first stage of pregnancy on what supplements they were taking four weeks before and eight weeks after conception. Three years later researchers revisited the women investigating their children's language skills, including how many words they could string together in a phrase.
Toddlers who could only say one word at a time or who had 'unintelligible utterances' were considered to have severe language delay. The scientists found four out of 1,000 children born to women who took folic acid had severe language delays. However, this rose to nine out of 1,000 children if the mothers hadn't taken folic acid.
Dr Ezra Susser from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health said: 'The recommendation worldwide is that women should be on folate supplements through all their reproductive years.
'What you do during pregnancy... is not only important for birth but also for subsequent development.'
The pattern remained after Dr Susser's team took into account other detrimental factors, such as a mother's weight and education, and her marital status. They wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association that the study can't prove that folic acid, itself, prevents language delay and more research is needed.
Usha Ramakrishnan, a maternal and child nutrition researcher from Emory University in Atlanta who wasn't involved in the study said: 'Clearly it plays a role in development that starts very early in pregnancy. 'I think this adds to what's already known about the benefits of folic acid.'