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Epilepsy Drug Linked to Birth Defects: How to Reduce the Likelihood

Healthy child

For the first time in history, research has discovered new hope for preventing physical birth defects in children born to women with epilepsy.

Australia’s Melbourne Health Center has released its breaking news based on the latest research in the Neurology journal of the American Academy of Neurology, where it has linked physical defects such as spina bifida and hypospadias to the intake in high doses of valproate, a common epilepsy drug normally taken to control epileptic seizures.

Royal Melbourne Hospital epilepsy specialist and Head of the Department of Medicine at The University of Melbourne, Professor Terry O'Brien, states that they “now know that by reducing the dose taken in the first trimester of pregnancy, the risk of having a baby with spina bifida or hypospadias will be greatly reduced." Cleft palates and heart defects are also not a rarity in children born to these epileptic mothers. This conclusion was reached after an intensive study on 1700 women who have been or currently are pregnant.

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This was not always the case. On the contrary, the NYU Medical Center still states on its site that the reasons for the high rate of birth defects in children born to epileptic mothers are unknown. The statistics in regard are rather staggering. Whereas a normally healthy woman’s chances of bearing a child with such problems is up to 3%, the numbers double for the epileptic. Taking the antiepileptic drugs during the first trimester has been known to cause certain defects, but the risk of miscarriage is increased without it when faced with epileptic seizures on a constant basis.

What should epileptic mothers be doing to prevent birth defects in their children?

  • Take the lowest dose possible that can control your epileptic seizures, especially during 1st trimester, but safe to follow through until birth.
  • Take only one type of antiepileptic drug, greatly reducing the chances of birth defects.
  • Take folic acid throughout childbearing years, reducing the chance of future children developing spinal problems.
  • Avoid caffeine, tobacco and alcohol if planning to have a child.
  • Carbamazepine, phenobarbital, phenytoin, primidone, oxcarbazepine, felbamate and topiramate are enzyme-inducing antiepileptic drugs which have the possibility of causing internal bleeding in newborns. If taking these, combine with 10-20 mg of Vitamin K per day during the last 4 weeks of pregnancy.

For the first time ever, women with epilepsy are given hope for bearing normal children bereft of defects that have been the bane of many an existence. They thus instill in all the belief that science will one day eradicate all forms of disease and disorders, allowing for a happier and healthier world.

Perhaps they can try out this ancient Chinese herbal remedy as well!