Epilepsy Drug Connected To Major Birth Defects In Babies


Posted on 16th June 2010 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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The epilepsy drug valproic acid, when taken by expectant mothers in their first trimester, has been linked to birth defects in the brain, heart and arms of newborns, according to a new study.


For example, babies whose moms took valproic acid , whose brand names include Depakene and Depakote, were almost seven  times more likely to suffer with craniosyostosis, which is a fusion of the skull when the fetus is still in the womb. That fusion put hinders skull and brain development.

In terms of other birth  defects, mothers who took valproic acid during the first three months of their pregnancy incresed their odds, by 12.7  times, of  having a baby with spina bifida, which is when the spinal cord and backbone don’t develop properly, compared to women who didn’t take the drug.

Newborns whose mothers took valproic acid were also five times more likely to have a cleft palate;  2.5 times more likely to have the athrial septal heart defect; and more than two times as likely to have an extra finger on their hand. 

Those statistics have to be put in context. Even though there is a higher risk of birth defects for children of  mothers who took the anti-seizure medication, that risk overall is not huge. In the case of spina bifida, the risk went from 0.6 percent, or six in 1,000, compared with 0.5, or five in 1,000, for children whose mother’s hadn’t taken the anti-sezure medication.

Scientists are advising women of childbearing age to find a substitute drug to ward off seizures.

The study was published in The New England  Journal of  Medicine.