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It's possible that all four epilepsy medications had some effect on mental development, he said. Without such a comparison group, it's hard to know, said Holmes, who is also a professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.
Valproate, also given for migraine headaches and mood disorders, continues to be used by some epileptics because it's the only thing that works, said Meador, the study author.
Doctors say it's often important for epileptic women to keep taking their medications during pregnancy because seizures can lead to injuries.
Women on the drug who want to get pregnant should plan their pregnancies carefully and consult with a doctor, wrote Swedish researcher Dr. Torbjorn Tomson, in an editorial that accompanied the new study.
Switching drugs after a woman realizes she is pregnant is unlikely to reduce the risk of birth defects. And abruptly stopping he medication may endanger the mother and the fetus, he wrote.
"That could be catastrophic," Meador agreed.
On the Net:
New England Journal: http://nejm.org/
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