Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pregnant Women Warned About Depakote

Psych Central News reports this disturbing finding about the commonly-prescribed anticonvulsant, which is also used as a mood stabilizer.

Children born to women who took the epilepsy drug valproic acid (Depakote or Depakene) during the first trimester of pregnancy are much more likely to have serious births defects affecting the brain, heart and limbs, a new study finds.

The review is published in the June 10 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the review, researchers first looked at eight studies that included nearly 1,600 births and identified some 14 birth defects that seemed to be much more common among the children of women who took valproic acid early in pregnancy.

Researchers then took that information and analyzed data from a large European study that included nearly 4 million births and 98,000 birth defects. They found women who took valproic acid in early pregnancy had two to 12 times the risk of having a baby with one of six specific birth defects compared to women who took no epilepsy drugs. The findings were similar when birth defect rates among those taking valproic acid were compared to the rates for women who took other epilepsy drugs, leading researchers to conclude it was the valproic acid, not some other epilepsy drug, that was to blame.

NOTE: The absolute statistics are not quite as alarming: the chances of having a baby with any of these defects is less than one percent, but women in the first trimester are advised to avoid valproic acid as a precaution.

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