Seizure Drugs OK While Breastfeeding?
Study: Early Results Show Antiepileptic Drugs Do Not Harm Child's Development
April 17, 2008 -- Women with epilepsy who wish to breastfeed their children may
be able to do so safely without stopping their seizure medications, early results from
a landmark study suggest.
In animal studies, certain seizure medications can cause cell death in
immature brains. Beta-estradiol, the mother's sex hormone, can block this
effect while the baby is in the womb, but such protective effects are absent
"Concern was raised that breastfeeding by women taking antiepilepsy
drugs may increase the risk of antiepilepsy drug-induced cell death," study
researcher Kimford Meador, MD, with the University of Florida at Gainesville,
says in a news release.
However, new research presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 60th
Anniversary Annual Meeting in Chicago fails to demonstrate that breastfeeding
is harmful to a child if the mother is taking certain seizure medications. The
study is the first of its kind to examine the effect of breastfeeding and
The findings are based on an ongoing study that analyzed the cognitive
abilities of 187 children 2 years old whose mothers took one of the following
drugs for the treatment of epilepsy: Tegretol, Lamictal, Dilantin, or Depakote.
Among the study group, 41% of the children were breastfed. The breastfed
children scored higher on the Mental Development Index (MDI) test than those
who were not breastfed, regardless of the type of seizure medication. However,
the difference was not statistically significant when factoring in the mother's
"Our early findings show breastfeeding during antiepilepsy drug
treatment doesn't appear to have a negative impact on a child's cognitive
abilities," Meador says.
Researchers caution that more research is needed to confirm their
observations. The study analysis is part of the Neurodevelopmental Effects of
Antiepileptic Drugs (NEAD) study, an ongoing trial to investigate how the use
of seizure medications during pregnancy influences a child's cognitive abilities.
Mothers were enrolled during pregnancy. The study aims to re-evaluate each
child again at ages 3, 4 1/2, and 6.