Anti-epileptic drugs taken by expecting mothers may affect babies’ cognitive health, finds study

Anti-epileptic drugs taken by expecting mothers may affect babies’ cognitive health, finds study

The medications an expectant mother takes during her gestation can have a prolonged effect on the emotional well-being of the child. Now, a study has found that children born to mothers treated with anti-epileptic drugs during that phase score poorly in subjects like math, science and language in elementary school. Published recently in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, the research corroborates earlier studies conducted to test the impact of sodium valproate in children exposed to its medicinal effects prior to birth.

Commenting on the findings, study co-author Arron Lacey from the Wales Epilepsy Research Network at Swansea University Medical School in the United Kingdom said, “Our findings support previous studies that provide consistent evidence that in utero exposure to sodium valproate and anti-epileptics in combination are linked to adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes.”

Sodium valproate is an anticonvulsant prescribed to people afflicted with epilepsy. Available under brand names like Convulex, Epilim and Stavzor, use of the drug by epileptic pregnant women has been linked to a host of physiological effects in children. The study indicates how three or four children out of 10 exposed to the drug will exhibit a lower IQ level and face difficulties in cognitive abilities.

The study based on detailed evaluation of the respondents found that children born to mothers with epilepsy who didn’t consume anticonvulsants had similar academic scores as kids not exposed to any anti-epileptic medication. Since seizures can pose a risk to the life of both the mother and her unborn child, treating the former with anti-epileptic medications becomes necessary. However, health care providers must consider giving warning to concerned mothers about the side effects of the drug on the developing fetus.

Though the results pinpoint the possible effects of anti-epileptic drugs taken by mothers on their children, the researchers indicated that other possible factors mentioned below need to be taken into account before arriving at conclusions:

  • Mothers’ IQ level
  • Weight of mothers
  • Consumption of alcohol or other illegitimate drugs by mothers during pregnancy
  • Intake of folic acid by mothers
  • Dosage of anti-epileptic drugs taken
  • Ability of the parents to bring up their kids
  • Kind of epilepsy suffered
  • Frequency of seizures affecting mothers

“It is possible that mothers with poorly controlled seizures may have an effect on their child’s education in terms of parental support outside of school setting. It is possible that the mothers prescribed sodium valproate as well as those prescribed multiple anti-epileptics have more severe epilepsy, and this may explain the difference in results,” the researchers noted.

Moreover, the fact that mental conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety may result in seizures cannot be ignored. Continual stress and depression are mostly ignored, which are later passed to children. Experts feel that deterioration in mental health of children may contribute to their gradual cognitive decline. It is necessary that women take utmost care of themselves and seek professional help if they believe that they feel affected because of depression or any other mental disorder.

Seeking help for emotional disorders in children

Children may suffer from several emotional disorders, some of them arising from medications that their mothers had consumed during pregnancy. While treating such affected kids, it is necessary to list all possible factors responsible for their problems and then treat them accordingly. Children showing poor academic scores may be mentally unsound, which further contributes to their emotional imbalance. While examining these kids for their cognitive underdevelopment, medical practitioners must be careful about possible underlying mental illnesses that they may be affected by.

If a loved one is dealing with any mental problem, get in touch with the 247 Mental Health Helpline. You may seek help through online mental help chat or call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178. A mental health live chat with our online representative can arm you with the desired information on evidence-based mental health treatment in your vicinity.