Anti-epilepsy Medicine During Pregnancy Doesn’t Affect Newborns, Study Suggests

Anti-epilepsy Medicine During Pregnancy Doesn’t Affect Newborns, Study Suggests

Children whose mothers took anti-epilepsy medicine during their pregnancy have no more health concerns than children whose mothers were untreated, according to a Danish study.

The research, “Prenatal exposure to antiepileptic drugs and use of primary healthcare during childhood: a population-based cohort study in Denmark,” was published in the journal BMJ Open.

Epilepsy is the most common neurological disorder that requires treatment during pregnancy.

Research has linked prenatal exposure to anti-epileptic drugs with adverse outcomes in newborns, including congenital and neuropsychiatric disorders. The amount of research has been limited, however.

The latest results should comfort women who need anti-epilepsy medicine while they are pregnant.

A team at Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital’s Research Unit for General Practice studied whether prenatal exposure to anti-epileptic medicine can lead to more frequent use of primary healthcare during childhood.

Anne Mette Lund Würtz and her colleagues included in their study 963,010 babies born in Denmark from 1997 to 2012. The children were identified from the Danish National Patient Register. None of the children was part of a multiple birth — a twin or triplet, for example.

Researchers looked at the number of contacts the children had with doctors. They found no significant differences in contacts between children whose mothers had taken anti-epilepsy medicine during pregnancy and children whose mothers had not.

“The small difference we found in the number of contacts is primarily due to a difference in the number of telephone contacts and not to actual visits to the GP. At the same time, we cannot rule out that the difference in the number of contacts is caused by a small group of children who have more frequent contact with their GP because of illness,” Würtz said in a news release.

The number of children exposed prenatally to anti-epileptic medicines — 4,478 — had only 3% more contacts with a general practitioner during the study period than the unexposed children.

Researchers also looked at the number of  doctor contacts by type of anti-epileptic drug mothers took. They discovered that valproate and oxcarbazepine, two widely used anti-epileptic drugs, were associated with more contacts with a general practitioner.

“Our results are generally reassuring for women who need to take anti-epilepsy medicine during their pregnancy, including women with epilepsy,” Würtz said.

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