January 7, 2019

Use of Common Epilepsy Drug in Pregnancy Tied to ADHD in Kids

When a woman with epilepsy uses the anti-seizure drug valproate during a pregnancy, the odds that her baby will go on to develop ADHD rise, a new study suggests.

The Danish report can’t prove that valproate causes attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in these cases, only that there’s an association.

But in the new study, fetal exposure to valproate was tied to 48 percent higher odds of a child developing ADHD, according to a team led by Dr. Jakob Christensen at Aarhus University.

The study included more than 900,000 babies born in Denmark between 1997 and 2011. The children’s mental health was tracked from birth until they averaged about 10 years of age.

Christensen’s group concluded that “maternal use of valproate during pregnancy was associated with a small but significantly increased risk of ADHD in the offspring, even after adjusting for maternal psychiatric disease, maternal epilepsy,” and other factors.

Other epilepsy drugs appeared to have no effect on ADHD rates, the researchers noted. The findings were published online Jan. 4 in JAMA Network Open.

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