A frightening report from Boston University School of Medicine shows that drugs that block folic acid can cause birth defects.

Doctors usually recommend that a pregnant women take folic acid pills because lack of that vitamin causes birth defects including spinal cord damage, urinary tract and heart abnormalities and cleft palate. Folic acid can be blocked by drugs that a pregnant women may take, such as anticonvulsants such as phenobarbital, Tegretol and Dilantin; antibiotics such as trimethoprim; diuretics such as triamterene; arthritis medications such as sulfasalazine; and anti-cancer drugs such as methotrexate and aminopterin.

All pregnant women should eat foods rich in folic acid such as nuts, beans, whole grains, leafy green vegetables, and fruits such as oranges and avocados. They may also take folic acid supplements, and they should check with their doctors about the effects of any other necessary medications on folic acid.

Hernandez-diaz S et al. NEJM November 30, 2000

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