A new Australian study has provided clearer insights into the link between the use of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) in pregnant women and the elevated risk of autism in their unborn children.
Conducted in partnership between the University of Birmingham and a number of Australian institutions, the prospective cohort study examined 105 children exposed to anticonvulsants during pregnancy in order to gain a better understanding of the true risks involved.
Each of the children were aged between six and eight years old and were recruited via the Australian Pregnancy Register for Women on Antiepileptic Medication. Maternal epilepsy, pregnancy and medical history data were obtained prospectively, while autism traits were assessed using the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS).Watch movie online Get Out (2017)
According to results published in the medical journal Epilepsia, 11 children – or 10.5 per cent of the cohort – had elevated CARS scores, enough to indicate an increased rate of autism traits across the sample.
The most important determinant of association with autistic traits was higher doses of sodium valproate exposure – of the 11 patients affected, two had been exposed to valproate monotherapy, two to carbamazepine monotherapy and seven to valproate in polytherapy.
Linear regression analysis showed that the mean valproate dose during pregnancy was a significant predictor of CARS scores after controlling for polytherapy, mean carbamazepine dose, folic acid use, seizures during pregnancy, tobacco and marijuana use, maternal IQ and socioeconomic status.
First trimester folic acid supplementation and marijuana use were also significant predictors of CARS scores.
Additionally, the paper highlighted one potential way in which valproate could be incorporated into maternal epilepsy treatment in a less risky manner.
The researchers said: “The use of valproate in women who may become pregnant is now generally avoided; however, there is insufficient data regarding the risk of ASD with low-dose valproate.
“If this risk is no greater than with other AEDs, it may enable women with genetic generalised epilepsy to retain optimal seizure control, as well as minimise harm to their unborn child.”