The children of women who take epilepsy drugs while they are pregnant are at risk of language delays. But new research has found that when these women take folic acid supplements before and early in the pregnancy, the risk is lowered.

Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, published the Norwegian study in the August 1, 2018 issue.

The study included 335 children of mothers with epilepsy who took epilepsy drugs while they were pregnancy, and more than 104,000 children of mothers without epilepsy.

Researchers found that the children whose mothers took epilepsy drugs while pregnant, but did not take folic acid, were four times as likely to have delays in their language skills at 18 months old as the children whose mothers took folic acid. By the time the children reached 3 years old, the children of mothers who did not take folic acid were still four times as likely to suffer from language delays.

These findings are incredibly important, because continuing epilepsy treatment during pregnancy is vital. Seizures brought on by epilepsy can harm both the mother and fetus during pregnancy.

The primary role of folic acid in pregnant women is the prevention of neural tube defects. To gain the supplement’s full effect, women are advised to take 400 mcg daily, starting at least one month before conception. Similarly, for folic acid to prevent language delays, it’s advised that expectant mothers begin taking the vitamin four weeks before the pregnancy and until the end of the first trimester.

You can read the original study here.