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Epilepsy Drug in Pregnancy Linked to Autism Risk in Study
Date:1/30/2013

d one was also diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the researchers found.

Three children had ADHD alone and four had dyspraxia, a condition causing poor physical coordination and clumsiness.

These neurodevelopmental problems were far more common among children whose mothers had epilepsy (7.46 percent) compared with those whose mothers didn't have the seizure disorder (1.87 percent). And they were detected more often among children whose mothers took valproate by itself or in combination with other drugs, the study authors found.

Twelve percent of the children of mothers who took valproate alone had developmental problems as did 15 percent of those whose mothers took valproate along with other medications, the researchers reported.

Also, the likelihood of a neurodevelopmental disorder appeared to increase with higher doses of valproate, they noted.

Overall, children exposed to valproate alone or with other drugs were six times and 10 times more likely to be diagnosed with a developmental problem, respectively, compared with children of mothers who did not have epilepsy, the study authors said.

In addition, boys were three times more likely to be diagnosed with a developmental disorder than girls.

Children with autism have trouble with communication and social interactions, and its incidence is increasing.

Bromley said she hopes to continue the research in larger studies.

Meanwhile, children exposed to valproate in the womb should be monitored, the authors said. However, "it is important to stress that not every child is affected," Bromley said.

"Exposure to the drug is associated with an increase in the level of risk, but we do not yet understand the mechanism behind the association," she added.

Other experts said that valproate is overused.

"There is still a lot of valproate being used in women of childbearing age, probably more than we should be using," said Dr.
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