Fertility and pregnancy * Babies and children

Epilepsy drug linked to spina bifida in babies

Epilepsy drug linked to spina bifida in babies Increased risk of birth defect

Pregnant women with epilepsy who take a common drug for the condition have a higher chance of having a baby with spina bifida, according to research.

Dutch researchers used a European database with information on babies born with major birth defects to identify ones linked with carbamazepine use in the first three months of pregnancy.

Women taking the anti-eplieptic drug carbamazepine were 2.6 times more likely to give birth to a baby with spina bifida compared with women who took none.

The researchers from the University of Groningen also concluded that carmazepine is less risky than another frequently used anti-epileptic drug, valproic acid. No other major birth defects linked to the drug were found.

The experts say their findings confirm previous research which found that pregnant women taking valproic acid were six times more likely to have a baby born with spina bifida compared with women using other antiepileptic drugs.

Writing in today's British Medical Journal they said: “Although most antiepileptic drugs taken during pregnancy significantly increase the risk for one or more specific congenital malformations, the occurrence of these malformations is nevertheless rare.

"Most exposed pregnancies result in a baby without malformation.”

“The best option regarding antiepileptic drug treatment can be chosen only on an individual basis by the woman and neurologist before pregnancy, weighing the benefits of epilepsy control against the risk of teratogenicity.”

This article was published on Fri 3 December 2010

Image © Karen Roach - Fotolia.com

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