Epilepsy drug during pregnancy could increase risk of autism
In recent years, numerous factors have been linked to increased risk of autism, from the age of the paternal grandfather to the length of the gestational period. Now a study from Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark has concluded that use of the anti-epileptic drug valproate during pregnancy may increase the risk of autism in offspring. Valproate is also used to treat other neuropsychological disorders.
The population-based study covered all children born in Denmark between 1996 and 2006, using registers to identify children exposed to the drug and those who were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Data was adjusted for other potential factors, including maternal and paternal ages at conception, parental psychiatric history, gestational age, birth weight, sex, congenital malformations and parity. The analysis involved 655,615 children, of whom 5,437 were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. The study identified 508 children exposed to valproate, which was associated with a 4.42 percent risk increase.
The study also found that autism risk was higher among the children of women who had previously taken the medication but had stopped prior to pregnancy, though this risk increase was less than that of women who took the drug during pregnancy.