Epilepsy drugs during pregnancy could affect infants

A new study shows that children who are exposed to epilepsy drugs in the womb are at increased risk of having impaired fine motor skills. Exposure to the drugs in breast milk, however, does not appear to pose a threat.


The data have been collected from Norwegian mothers about their children’s language, behaviour and motor and social skills at the ages of 6 months, 18 months and 36 months and studied. The women also provided information on breast-feeding during the first year for the study, which was published in the journal JAMA Neurology.


The study comprised of 223 children who were exposed to one or more epilepsy drugs in the womb.


At age 6 months, 11.5 percent of infants whose mothers took epilepsy drugs during pregnancy had impaired fine motor skills (which involve small muscle movements) compared with less than 5 percent of those who were not exposed to epilepsy drugs.


Using more than one type of epilepsy drug during pregnancy was associated with impairments in both fine motor and social skills. Exposure to epilepsy drugs in breast milk was not associated with any harmful effects for the age groups included, according to a journal news release.


Although the study found that exposure to epilepsy drugs in the womb was associated with a risk for impaired motor skills in infants, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.


"Women with epilepsy should be encouraged to breast-feed their children irrespective of antiepileptic medication use," said Dr. Gyri Veiby, of the University of Bergen in Norway, and colleagues.


"Pregnant women with epilepsy often ask whether they will be able to breast-feed," he said. "Many have been given conflicting advice when there were scant data to answer the question."


Source-JAMA Neurology