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Breast-Feeding While on Seizure Meds Doesn't Harm Babies

Study finds no negative impact on children's cognitive development

THURSDAY, April 17 (HealthDay News) -- Mothers who breast-feed while on certain seizure medications do not appear to harm their children's cognitive development, a new study finds.

"Our early findings show breast-feeding during anti-epilepsy drug treatment doesn't appear to have a negative impact on a child's cognitive abilities," study author Kimford Meador, of the University of Florida at Gainesville, said in a prepared statement. "However, more research is needed to confirm our findings, and women should use caution due to the limitations of our study."

The study was expected to be presented Thursday at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting, in Chicago.

The cognitive development of 187 2-year-old children whose mothers were taking the epilepsy drugs lamotrigine, carbamazepine, phenytoin or valproate were tested in the study. Of these children, 41 percent were breast-fed.

The children of mothers who breast-fed while on the epilepsy medications actually scored consistently higher on IQ tests than those children in the study who were not breast-fed. However, the results were not significantly different after adjusting for the mother's intelligence as the children who were breast-fed also had higher IQs.

While animal studies have shown that some anti-epilepsy drugs can cause cells death in immature brains, Meador said beta estradiol, which is the mother's sex hormone, is thought to prevent that from occurring.

The study will continue and, ultimately, examine the effects of in utero anti-epilepsy drug exposure on children at 6 years old.

More information

The Epilepsy Foundation has more about epilepsy.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, April 17, 2008

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