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Study Finds Rate of Autism Increases When Mother Takes Epilepsy Drug Valproate

Filed April 26th, 2013 edlieber1

Using a popular epilepsy drug during pregnancy could significantly increase a woman’s chance of giving birth to a child with an autism spectrum disorder.

According to a new study from researchers at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, using the drug valproate (sold in the U.S. as Depakote) to suppress convulsions caused by epilepsy could have another adverse effect on a pregnancy.

We’ve reported on the side effects associated with antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), especially Depakote. Previous studies have linked use of drugs like Depakote with other birth defects and an increased risk of suicide among people taking them.]

Among the more than 665,000 babies who were participants in this study, more than 2,600 had been exposed to AEDs during their mother’s pregnancy. Included among them were 508 exposed to valproate. The study found that 4.42 percent of children exposed to valproate developed an autism spectrum disorder, including 2.5 percent with childhood autism, according to a report on the study from the Chinese news service Xinhua.

The regular risk of autism and childhood autism is 1.53 and 0.48 percent, respectively.

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