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Epilepsy Drugs Can Enhance Risk of Birth Defects

Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder in which misfiring electrical impulses in the brain lead to seizures. About 2.3 million Americans have epilepsy, and more than a million are female. //Pregnant women who take anti-epileptic medications face a significant risk that their children will have problems ranging from congenital defects to slow development.

A new study adds to growing evidence that many commonly prescribed anti-epileptic drugs carry this risk, but the researchers caution that not taking the anti-seizure drugs could be even more harmful. Dean and his colleagues studied 160 mothers who were undergoing treatment with various antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) and who gave birth between 1977 and 2001.

Dean says that previous research had also shown a relatively high risk of problems seen in children exposed to AEDs while in the womb. He adds, however, that the drugs taken by the mothers in this study belong to the older generation of AEDs, and that that some small studies have suggested the newer generation of AEDs may be safer.

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