Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Epilepsy Health Center

Font Size

Epilepsy Drugs, Breastfeeding: Safe for Kids?

Study Shows No Negative Effects on IQ of Kids Whose Moms Take Epilepsy Drugs While Breastfeeding
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Nov. 24, 2010 -- Breastfeeding while a mother is taking epilepsy drugs does not appear to harm a child's IQ, according to a new study that followed children born to women with epilepsy until age 3.

''We compared the breastfed babies to non-breastfed babies and basically found no difference at all in IQ at age 3," says researcher Kimford Meador, MD, professor of neurology at Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta.

The average IQ found for the breastfed babies was 99, Meador tells WebMD, while the average for non-breastfed babies was 98. "The average for the general population is 100," he says.

The study is published in the journal Neurology.

During pregnancy and breastfeeding, ''there's clearly a theoretical concern that the drugs may harm the baby," Meador tells WebMD.

For instance, valproic acid, an epilepsy drug that is often avoided in reproductive-age women if possible, has been shown to contribute to major birth defects if used in the first trimester. In his previous research, Meador has found that at age 3, children who were exposed in utero to valproic acid had an IQ that was 9 points lower than children exposed to another epilepsy drug, lamotrigine.

The new study is an ongoing analysis of the Neurodevelopmental Effects of Antiepileptic Drugs (NEAD) Study, conducted from 1999 to 2004.

Analyzing Risks

For this study, Meador's team followed 194 pregnant women who were taking a single epilepsy drug. At age 3, they tested the IQ of the women's 199 babies (including twins).

Of these, 82 breastfed for a median of six months (half did so longer, half less) while the other 112 did not breastfeed.

The women took one of four different anti-epilepsy drugs, including:

No substantial differences in IQ tests at age 3 were found when the researchers compared breastfed to non-breastfed children, and no substantial differences were found between the four different drugs.

''Even kids who got valproate and breastfed had no difference," Meador says. This might be due to the lower dose of the drugs in breast milk that is transmitted to the baby compared to the amount the baby gets during in utero exposure, he says.

Today on WebMD

human head and brain waves
Causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Grand mal seizure
How is each one different?
marijuana plant
CBD, a plant chemical, may cut down seizures.
prescription bottle
Which medication is right for you?
Seizures Driving
Questions for Doctor Epilepsy
Graces Magic Diet
Pills spilling from bottle in front of clock
first aid kit
Caring Child Epilepsy
Making Home Safe
epilepsy monitoring

WebMD Special Sections