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Prenatal Use of Common Epilepsy Drug Tied to Higher Autism Risk
Date:4/23/2013

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, April 23 (HealthDay News) -- Valproate -- an epilepsy drug already shown to increase the risk of birth defects and thinking problems in offspring whose mothers used the drug during pregnancy -- may also significantly increase the risk of having a child with autism or an autism spectrum disorder, according to new research.

The study of more than 650,000 children born between 1996 and 2006 in Denmark found that the risk of having any type of autism spectrum disorder was increased nearly threefold, while the risk of developing childhood autism was raised over fourfold in certain mothers took valproate during pregnancy.

Autism spectrum disorders are a group of developmental brain disorders that hinder a child's ability to communicate and interact socially. They range from severe cases of "classic" autism to the relatively mild form called Asperger's syndrome and other related conditions.

In the study, autism spectrum disorders included childhood autism (autistic disorder), Asperger's syndrome, atypical autism, and other or unspecified pervasive developmental disorders.

"The absolute risk of being diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder was 4.4 percent in children exposed to valproate compared to 1.5 percent in children not exposed to valproate. The absolute risk of being diagnosed with childhood autism was 2.5 percent in children exposed to valproate compared to 0.5 percent in children not exposed to valproate," said lead study author Jakob Christensen, a consultant neurologist at Aarhus University Hospital in Aarhus, Denmark.

However, Christensen was quick to note that most women who took valproate during pregnancy did not have children with autism or autism spectrum disorders.

Results of the study appear in the April 24 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Valproate is a medication used to control seizures. It
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