Teen school performance ‘harmed’ by pre-natal exposure to AEDs

Children born to women taking multiple drug treatments for epilepsy seizures during pregnancy are more likely to struggle at school than those whose mothers are not affected by the condition, new research suggests.

The study, based on the records of 1,235 children born to mothers with epilepsy between 1973 and 1986, found that prenatal exposure to a combination of drugs, particularly valproic acid, raised the likelihood of not finishing school by a factor of three.

Scientists from Karolinska University Hospital (KUH) in Stockholm found that children whose mothers had received a single anti-epileptic drug (AED) treatment were no more likely to struggle at school than their peers, but tended to score slightly lower in subjects such as English and maths.

The research supports previous studies, which have suggested a link between valproic acid and a child's ability to process information and make decisions.

Dr Lisa Forsberg, lead author of the paper, which was published in the journal Epilepsia, said: "Our results suggest exposure to several AEDs in the womb may have a negative effect on the child's neurodevelopment.

Epilepsy is estimated to affect approximately one in 200 people in the UK.

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