News Release 

Study suggests no link between antiseizure drugs used in pregnancy and cognitive problems in babies

NIH/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Research News

WHAT:

New findings published in JAMA Neurology suggest there is no difference in cognitive outcomes at age 2 among children of healthy women and children of women with epilepsy who took antiseizure medication during pregnancy. The findings are part of the large research project Maternal Outcomes and Neurodevelopmental Effects of Antiepileptic Drugs (MONEAD), which is a prospective, long-term study looking at outcomes in pregnant women with epilepsy and their children. The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health.

This study reports findings from 382 children (292 children born to women with epilepsy and 90 born to healthy women) who were assessed for language development at age 2. The researchers also compared developmental scores with third trimester blood levels of antiseizure medication in these children.

Results suggest that children born to healthy women and those born to women with epilepsy do not show significant differences in language development scores at age 2. Neither was language development linked to third trimester blood levels of epilepsy medications. Most women with epilepsy in the study were taking lamotrigine and/or levetiracetam.

However, the study did find that those children born to mothers with the very highest levels of antiseizure medication in the blood during the third trimester did have somewhat lower scores on tests in the motor and general adaptive domains, which refer to skills related to self-care, such as feeding.

The children in this study will continue to be followed and will participate in additional cognitive tests through age 6. Results so far indicate that controlling epilepsy with these medications during pregnancy may be safe for babies.

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WHO:

Adam Hartman, M.D., program director, NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). To arrange an interview, please contact nindspressteam@ninds.nih.gov

Article:

Meador KJ et al., Two-year old cognitive outcomes in children of pregnant women with epilepsy in the Maternal Outcomes and Neurodevelopmental Effects of Antiepileptic Drugs Study, JAMA Neurology, June 7, 2021. DOI: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2021.1583

This study was supported by the NINDS (NS038455 and NS050659).

For more information:

http://www.ninds.nih.gov

https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Epilepsy-Information-Page

NINDS (http://www.ninds.nih.gov) is the nation's leading funder of research on the brain and nervous system. The mission of NINDS is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.

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