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What does the new information on using epilepsy medication during pregnancy mean?

January 7, 2021

The MHRA’s review of the use of epilepsy medication in pregnancy has highlighted the existing evidence of the risks of harm to unborn children posed by the use of some medications during pregnancy. Hattie, Kathy and Louise from Epilepsy Action break the information down, explain what it means for women living with epilepsy and what needs to happen next.

Report roundup:

💊 Recent reviews have highlighted the risks of taking sodium valproate during pregnancy. Many women were not made aware of the risks, leading to an estimated 20,000 babies being affected. The MHRA review concludes that valproate represents the highest risk.

💊 However, it also shows that carbamazepine, phenobarbital, phenytoin and topiramate, increase the risk of birth abnormalities if used during pregnancy. As with valproate, these risks are often not communicated to the women prescribed these drugs.

💊 As well as physical abnormalities, the evidence identifies that some medications taken in pregnancy increased the risk of children experiencing learning difficulties later in life, or of babies being born smaller than average.

💊 This is understandably very concerning for women who have been taking these drugs. As with valproate, it is possible that many children have suffered avoidable harm due to women not being informed of the risks.

💊 The review also concluded that there are medications for which there is insufficient research to determine whether they pose an increased risk. This will be equally distressing for women prescribed these drugs, and not knowing if they are safe to use during pregnancy.

💊 It is important to note that lamotrigine (brand name Lamictal) and levetiracetam (brand name Keppra) were NOT found to carry an increased risk in pregnancy

💊 We want to ensure that necessary action is taken in light of this review by asking Mat Hancock to ensure that no woman or girl takes an anti-epileptic medication without them, or their family, being aware of the risks.

People with epilepsy should not stop taking or change their medication without talking to their doctor or nurse.

This video was shared by Epilepsy Action



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