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Women Taking Certain Epilepsy Drugs Can Safely Breast-Feed, Study Suggests
Date:11/24/2010

s after other research suggesting hazards to the developing fetus from exposure to one anti-seizure medication. Last year, the researchers reported that babies who were exposed to the drug valproate in utero had IQs at age 3 that were an average of 9 points lower than babies whose mothers took one of the other three drugs during pregnancy. They also found that the effect was dose-dependant, meaning the higher the dose of valproate, the lower the IQ. Other studies have shown that exposure to valproate during the first trimester can increase the risk of birth defects.

Meador speculated that one reason there was no difference in IQ levels among breast-fed and formula-fed babies exposed to valproate may be because "the level of the drug in the infants' bloodstreams was very much lower than it was during pregnancy."

Dr. Autumn Klein is director of the Program in Women's Neurology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and the author of an editorial accompanying the study. She said the study "provides the most information thus far" when it comes to counseling women who take antiepilepsy drugs on the risks of breast-feeding.

Klein believes the findings "will definitely change" people's attitudes toward the use of these drugs during breast-feeding. Right now, she said, many doctors do not recommend breast-feeding for women taking the medications "due to the largely unknown effects of [antiepilepsy drugs] during breast-feeding."

Dr. Jacqueline French, a professor of neurology at New York University School of Medicine who treats many women with epilepsy, said the findings were reassuring in that, "even if a drug produces problems in utero, it doesn't produce additional problems for the baby during breast-feeding," she said.

French said another possibility for the difference seen in valproate exposure in utero versus during breast-feeding may be that "the brain is developing incredibly rapidly in utero, and so that may be a very sensitiv
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