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Medications and Pregnancy, What are the Risks?

09/03/2013

The choice to start a family is one of the most important decisions that you'll make in your life. For women, specifically those battling health issues, having a safe pregnancy and delivering a healthy baby is their number one concern. But what happens when an expectant mother suffers from migraines so severe or epileptic seizures so violent that they necessitate the daily use of medication to control? How does this affect not only the baby, but the mother as well?

Recently, studies have demonstrated a link between anti-epileptical drug use and autism or other neurological disorders in babies while still in the womb. "For many women on epilepsy medication, the desire to start a family can be fraught with fear that they could have a baby with a range of disabilities or malformations. Previous studies have shown a strong relationship between the dose of Valproate taken and the risk of the child having a birth defect," says researcher Professor Terry O'Brien.

A new study published in the Neurology journal suggests that the risk of birth defects in babies born to mothers who suffer from epileptic seizures could be reduced by simply lowering the dosage of the anti-epilepsy drug, Valproate, during pregnancy.

But unfortunately, according to O'Brien, Valproate is often times the only drug that will help combat seizures. Researchers at Royal Melbourne Hospital analyzed data of over 1,700 epileptic women, some of whom were pregnant, and discovered that reducing the dose of Valproate during the first trimester of pregnancy can reduce the risk of birth defects. "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," O'Brien claims.

This new information is highly significant for expectant mothers and women considering starting a family who use Valproate. But the concern over medication use doesn't necessarily end when the pregnancy does. There are also other issues to consider such as whether the new mother will be breastfeeding and how these drugs effect lactation. During our upcoming Pharmacology courses we will be discussing "Women's Health Drugs," and more specifically, "Medications While Pregnant and Lactating," (October 5, 2013 in Washington, D.C., and November 16, 2013 in Las Vegas), to help raise awareness in this area of gestational health.

For those further interested in women's health, we also have a conference coming up in Las Vegas, "Women's Health and OB/GYN Nursing," where we'll evaluate which medications are harmful for expecting mothers in our session "Common Medications in Pregnancy: What's Safe, What's Not" (October 16, 2013).

Please register immediately to reserve your spot as we explore the risks associated with medications during pregnancy and early motherhood. For more on the epilepsy drug Valproate and its link to birth defects in babies, read the article High Doses of Anti-Epilepsy Drug Linked to High Risk of Birth Defects. 

 

 

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