Study Links Antiepileptic Drugs During Pregnancy To Autism Development

A study published in the journal of Development Medicine & Child Neurology titled “Characteristics of fetal anticonvulsant syndrome associated autistic disorder” followed 626 children over a period of 20 years to determine if higher rates of autism and autism-specturm disorders may be indicated in children whose mothers took antiepileptic drugs during pregnancy (Source:Development Medicine & Child Neurology, Volume 47, Issue 8, pages 551-555, August 2005).

The aim of this study was to evaluate the clinical features and frequency of autistic disorder or Asperger syndrome (AS) in children exposed to anticonvulsant medication in utero. During a 20-year study period, 626 children were born to mothers taking antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). The study examined long-term effects of prenatal exposure to AEDs in 260 children (122 males, 138 females).

Of these, 26 (16 males) were reported by parents to have social or behavioural difficulties. Eleven children (6 males, 5 females) fulfilled the DSM-IV criteria for autistic disorder and one (female) fulfilled the DSM-IV criteria for AS. These children comprised 4.6% of the exposed children studied, and 1.9% of all exposed children born during the study period. Mean age of these children at diagnosis was 5 years 4 months (SD 2y 11mo) and 9 years 10 months (SD 3y 10mo) at the time of this study.


Other children from the group of 26 had difficulties in areas of speech and language development and social communication but did not meet the criteria for an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Sodium valproate was the drug most commonly associated with autistic disorder, five of 56 (8.9%) of the study children exposed to sodium valproate alone had either autistic disorder or AS.

It was concluded that prenatal exposure to anticonvulsant medication is a risk factor for the development of an ASD. Fetal anticonvulsant syndrome associated autistic disorder is characterized by an even sex ratio, absence of regression or skill loss, and language delay in the absence of global delay

(Source:Development Medicine & Child Neurology, Volume 47, Issue 8, pages 551-555, August 2005).

Currently Depakote is the most widely prescribe antiepileptic medication in the United States and has been approved for treatment of epilepsy since 1983. Depakote tablets are a mixture of sodium valproate and valproic acid. As a result, Depakote has been widely linked to a number of serious birth defects and birth injuries.

Birth defects related to Depakote use by mothers during pregnancy include neural tube defects (spina bifida), craniofacial defects, skeletal disorders, hand and finger malformations, facial malformations, decreased mental facilites and fetal death.

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Depakote Birth Injury Resources (DBIR) provides information on Depakote birth defects and informational resources for mothers who may be entitled to legal compensation for Depakote side effect injuries in their child. Consult DBIR for qualified Depakote injury lawyers. Author: Faith Anderson

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