Treating Epilepsy While Pregnant

Epilepsy drugs have acceptable safety profile with pregnancy

(RxWiki News) It has been well established that there is a risk of birth defects in the baby for pregnant women taking the anti-seizure medication phenytoin. Newer anti-epileptic drugs are safer, and a new study aimed to confirm the data.

A study has now indicated that the newer anti-epileptic drugs - Lamictal (lamotrigine), Keppra (levetiracetam), and Topamax or Topiragen (topirmate) - pose no additional risk for birth defects as compared with traditional medications used to treat epilepsy.

"Ask your specialists about medications and their effects on pregnancy."

The study was conducted at the University of Melbourne and led by Professor Frank Vajda. Prior to this research, data on the health and success of pregnancies among women using newer anti-epileptic drugs was limited.

The study analyzed data on pregnancy outcomes for 1317 women with epilepsy who used the newer drugs in the first trimester. These pregnancies were compared with those of women who used traditional anti-epileptic drugs - Di-Phen/Dilantin/Phenytek (phenytoin), Depacon (valproate), and Tegretol (carbamazepine).

The study also analyzed data on the pregnancy outcomes of a control group of untreated women.

The results showed no higher incidence of birth defects among women taking the newer drugs than among women taking traditional medications or among the control group. Rates of birth defects for each of the three newer medications were equal to or lower than the rate for the untreated control group (5.2%).

The most statistically significant correlation was the high rate of birth defects (16.3%) among women taking valproate.

This study should provide reasonable assurance to pregnant women that taking Lamictal, Keppra, or Topamax  will, in all likelihood, not interfere with pregnancy.

The study was published on November 18, 2011 in the Journal of Clinical Neuroscience.

Review Date: 
December 14, 2011