Reducing the dose of epilepsy medication guards against birth DEFECTS
If pregnant women take epilepsy medications with valproic acid, the danger of birth defects such as spina bifida or hypospadias is greatly increased. Australian researchers have now discovered that this risk can be significantly lowered by reducing the dose, reports “Neurology”.
The scientists from the University of Melbourne analysed data since 1999 from the Australian Pregnancy Register (APR) from over 1,700 women with epilepsy.
“We always knew that epilepsy drugs were responsible for the high level of fetal malformations but we never knew how much dosage played a role until recently,” explained APR founder, Frank Vajda. “Through our research, we 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,” said study leader, Terry O’Brien. When women only take the lowest dose of drugs with valproic acid, they can not only prevent bad attacks, but also the severe defects.
According to APR data, 80 percent of spina bifida cases were connected to taking valproate. Over the previous years, the medication was taken less often and in smaller amounts by women. Other side effects such as cleft palates and heart defects were not, however, influenced by the dose reduction.