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Study confirms benefits of folic acid in pregnancy

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BOSTON, Massachusetts (Reuters) -- A new study has confirmed that taking folic acid during pregnancy helps prevent a variety of birth defects, researchers said in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

The study built on a recent recommendation that pregnant women take folic acid to prevent spinal cord and brain deformities in their babies.

The new study, conducted by a team led by Dr. Sonia Hernandez-Diaz of the Boston University School of Public Health, has concluded women who take drugs that block the effect of folic acid face a much higher risk of having a baby with other types of deformities,

They found from interviews with thousands of mothers in Boston; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Toronto, Ontario, that pregnant women who took medicines that interacted with folic acid were two to three times more likely to give birth to a baby with a heart defect, cleft palate or urinary tract defects than other women.

That means, they said, that the same multivitamins recommended for pregnant women to prevent brain and spinal cord defects may be reducing the likelihood of other birth defects as well.

The Hernandez-Diaz team said women taking some drugs that block the effects of folic acid, such as the antibiotic trimethoprim or the high blood pressure medicine triamterene might be able to compensate by taking extra folic acid, but that may not help patients on phenobarbital, primidone, phenytoin or carbamazepine for epilepsy.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



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RELATED SITES:
CDC - Folic Acid
Spina Bifida Association of America - Folic Acid Information
FDA/CFSAN Folic Acid Fact Sheet
Folic acid - Coming to a grocery store near you
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