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Epilepsy Health Center

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Epileptic Women Can Have Normal Babies

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD


May 8, 2002 -- Contrary to popular belief, women with epilepsy are not at increased risk of having offspring with major birth defects, provided they do not take antiseizure drugs during pregnancy.

"The association of fetal malformations with untreated maternal epilepsy is controversial. From this research, we found no evidence of increased risk for major malformations in offspring of women who did not take anti-epileptic medications during gestation," says researcher Irena Nulman, MD, from Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, in a news release.

She presented the findings May 6 at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, held in Baltimore, Md.

With colleagues, Nulman performed an analysis of all the data collected in 10 earlier studies on epilepsy and birth defects. They found that overall, nonmedicated epileptic women were at no more risk than anyone else of having a child with severe birth defects. Women taking antiseizure medication during pregnancy, on the other hand, did have a significantly increased risk of delivering children with major malformations.

"This information is reassuring for women with epilepsy who do not need to take anti-epilepsy drugs," says study leader Gideon Koren, MD, professor of pediatrics, pharmacology, and medicine at University of Toronto, in the release. "It is also important for ... their physicians, who may choose to discontinue anti-epilepsy drugs during the first trimester in order to reduce risks of major malformations."

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