Study Finds Increased Rates of Developmental Delays Caused by Epilepsy Drugs During Pregnancy

A new study from Norway has linked the use of epilepsy and anti-seizure medications during pregnancy to developmental delays in children. The Norwegian study followed women with epilepsy during pregnancy and through the first three years of children’s lives. Results show the possibility that children of women who took epilepsy drugs during pregnancy may face increased risks for both physical and mental developmental delays.

Epilepsy, a common neurological disorder characterized by seizures, affects roughly 50 million people worldwide. The condition is also quite common among women of childbearing age. Studies have found that approximately .2 – .5 percent of pregnant women use epilepsy medications during pregnancy.

More than 61,000 children were studied by Norwegian researchers, beginning with mothers in the first 13 to 17 weeks of pregnancy. Mothers – including those who were taking anti-seizure medications and those who took no medication – provided information about the developmental skills of their children at 18 and 36 months of age. Details about children’s motor development, language and social skills, and autistic symptoms were collected.

From this data, researchers found that 333 children were exposed to epilepsy drugs in the womb. At 18 and 36 months of age, these children were more likely to have difficulties with motor skills, language and sentence skills, and were more likely to display traits of autism. According to the study, children exposed to these medications also faced increased risks for birth defects. In children whose mothers did not take epilepsy drugs during pregnancy, no mental or physical developmental delays were found.

According to the study, children exposed to epilepsy medications in the womb had higher rates of developmental delays and lower scores for key developmental areas than children who were not exposed to the drugs. Adverse developmental outcomes have been linked to exposure to valproate, lamotrigine, carbamazepine, and the use of multiple anti-seizure drugs. Researchers also noted that while links have been established, there is still much work to be done before clear cause-and-effect can be established. At this point, however, researches recommend safe seizure control during pregnancy so as to balance the possibility of side effects. If you would like more information about exploring your legal options after taking unsafe or dangerous medications, contact a California defective drug attorney from The Senators (Ret.) Firm, LLP.