New research suggests that taking anti-epileptic drugs during pregnancy increases risks of autism for unborn babies.
A study performed by the 5th European Academy of Neurology Congress showed that expectant mothers who took medicine for epilepsy during their pregnancies had a higher risk of language impairment in their children. Health Europa stated that the anti-epileptic drugs or AEDs that were evaluated in the study included sodium valproate and carbamazepine.
Recently, sodium valproate is only prescribed to expectant mothers when there is no alternative. This is because of the known risks to unborn babies which have been known to include missing developmental benchmarks and birth defects. On the other hand, medical professionals have previously considered carbamazepine the safer of the two.
But based on the 5th European Academy of Neurology Congress study, both sodium valproate and carbamazepine have been linked to language and cognitive issues in children whose mothers took the drugs while pregnant with them.
Dr. Elisabeth Synnøve NilsenHusebye, the lead researcher for the study, said that children whose mothers took anti-epileptic medication while pregnant with them typically begin to show signs of language impairment at ages 5 through 8.
While the study did reveal this upsetting news, especially for epileptic mothers-to-be, it did offer a silver lining. On the brighter side, the study showed that expectant mothers who took folic acid supplements regularly lessened the risk of language and cognitive impairment to their unborn babies.
Other anti-epileptic drugs such as levetiracetam, lamotrigine and topiramate may cause similar issues with language issues but studies on the long-term effects of being exposed to these drugs while in the womb are lacking.
This particular study was performed by studying the children of mothers who did and did not have epilepsy. The mothers were participants of the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort study from 1999 to 2008 and language screening tools were used on the children's language abilities at the critical ages of 5 to 8.
Dr. Husebye made sure to stress that it's highly important for mothers with epilepsy to take folic acid supplements even before conception, if possible and during the first trimester of pregnancy. Epileptic expectant mothers, please be sure to talk to your doctors about the best option for you!