New study sheds further light on pregnancy risks in women with epilepsy

A new study has provided fresh evidence of the heightened risk of foetal developmental problems affecting the children of women with epilepsy.

Led by researchers from Innlandet Hospital Trust in Norway, the study aimed to investigate intrauterine growth of foetuses in women with epilepsy, as compared with controls, and explore whether this growth was affected by prenatal exposure to antiepileptic drugs (AEDs).

Data was obtained from prospectively registered data regarding pregnancy and prenatal and perinatal factors in women in Oppland County in Norway, with the final analysis including information from 166 mothers with epilepsy and 287 children. These findings were compared to a control group consisting of 40,553 pregnancies in women without epilepsy registered in the same database.

According to results published in the medical journal Seizure, there was a significantly higher risk in the epilepsy group of infants being small for their gestational age (SGA), as well as being more likely to have a low score on the ponderal index, which calculates the relationship between mass and height as a measure of leanness.

Exposure to AEDs was shown to increase the risk, with the frequency of SGA and low ponderal index highest among infants exposed to the drug lamotrigine. In the AED group, head circumference was also revealed to be significantly smaller among babies whose mothers were treated with carbamazepine.

The researchers concluded: “The epilepsy group had a higher risk profile for having smaller babies, in being younger at age, lower in body weight and more frequent smokers. However, despite these differences, the effects of epilepsy and AED exposure were significant.

“The ponderal index may be a useful supplement to more established measures assessing intrauterine growth in epilepsy.”

These findings add to the growing body of evidence suggesting that remaining on AEDs during pregnancy can be risky for women with epilepsy, underlining the need for patients in this position to consult their doctors on the best course of action.

Posted by Anne Brown

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