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Epilepsy and pregnancy: a drug dilemma.

While scientists suspect that some anticonvulsant drugs used to control epilepsy may harm a developing fetus if taken during pregnancy, the actual risk to the fetus remains murky. Boston researchers now report that fetuses exposed to such drugs may fall short of their peers later in life.

Geral Raymond and his colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital studied 64 children and adults, aged 3 to 28, who had been exposed to anticonvulsant drugs in the womb, and 27 others whose mothers had not taken such drugs while pregnant. In seven of the drug-exposed participants, they discovered at least one sign of growth problems; no such problems turned up in the control group, Raymond says.

Six of the seven with growth failures were abnormally short for their age, and three had abnormally small heads, a factor sometimes linked with learning disabilities, Raymond says.

He cautions, however, that epileptic women who consider going off anticonvulsants during pregnancy must also weigh the risk of seizure, especially if they are prone to grand mal seizures, which can seriously damage a fetus. Many pregnant women with epilepsy can minimize drug-related problems, he says, by using low doses of a single anticonvulsant. In any case, epileptic women who plan to become pregnant should see a physician months before conception.
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Title Annotation:use of anticonvulsant drugs may harm fetus
Author:Fackelmann, Kathy A.
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 6, 1991
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