-- Robert Preidt
THURSDAY, July 18 (HealthDay News) -- The children of women who
take drugs to treat epilepsy during pregnancy may be at increased
risk for physical and mental developmental delays early in life, a
large, new study finds.
Epilepsy is fairly common among women of childbearing age, and
the use of antiepileptic drugs by pregnant women ranges from 0.2 to
In this study, researchers recruited Norwegian mothers at 13 to
17 weeks of pregnancy. For more than 61,000 children, mothers
provided details about motor development, language skills, social
skills and autistic symptoms at age 18 months. At 36 months,
mothers provided that information for more than 44,000
The researchers found that 333 of the children were exposed to
antiepileptic drugs in the womb. At 18 months of age, these
children were more likely to have motor skills problems and traits
of autism. At 36 months of age, these children were more likely to
have problems with motor skills and sentence skills, and traits of
The children exposed to antiepileptic drugs also had an
increased risk of birth defects, according to the study appearing
July 18 in the journal
No physical or mental development delays were found in children
born to women with epilepsy who did not take antiepileptic drugs
during pregnancy, and children of fathers with epilepsy generally
showed normal early development, according to a journal news
"Our study ... confirms that children exposed to antiseizure medications in the womb had lower scores for key developmental areas than children not exposed to [antiepileptic drugs]," concluded Dr. Gyri Veiby, of Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, Norway, and colleagues. "Exposure to valproate, lamotrigine, carbamazepine or multiple antiseizure medications was linked to adverse developmental outcomes."
While the study found an association between antiseizure
medications taken during pregnancy and developmental delays in
children, it did not prove cause-and-effect.
The researchers stressed the importance of good seizure control
during pregnancy that balances possible harmful effects on the
baby's brain development. They said future studies should examine
the effects of specific antiepileptic drugs on fetal development
and whether these effects continue from early childhood into school
age and adulthood.
The Epilepsy Foundation has more about
pregnancy and epilepsy drugs.
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