(WSYR-TV) -- Pre-natal exposure to anti-epilepsy medications, including the drug valproate, have been associated with an increased risk for congenital malformations and delayed cognitive development in children.
A new study examined whether there was a relationship between use of this medication by expectant mothers and risk of autism in their children.
Tine Sorensen has lived with epilepsy since she was 15 years old. She is now expecting her second child and continues taking anti-epilepsy medication, including a low dose of valproate.
Pre-natal exposure to valporate and other antiepileptic medications has been associated with congenital malformation and delayed cognitive development in children.
Dr. Jakob Christensen from Aarhus University in Denmark and co-authors wanted to determine whether valproate could be associated with an increased risk of autism, as well.
Researchers followed more than 500 thousand pregnant women in Denmark. These women gave birth between 1996 and 2007. Researchers then followed the children to see whether they were diagnosed with autism.
"Among those exposed to valproate during pregnancy there was a three-fold increased risk of autism spectrum disorder and a five-fold increased risk of childhood autism,” Dr. Jakob explained. "The real advantage of this study is that we were able to adjust for other factors that may be associated with autism spectrum disorder for example the age of the parents, the co-morbid psychiatric disorders or the weight of the child at birth and also the gender of the child."
The study appears in JAMA, Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers found children who were exposed to valproate, but without congenital malformations also had an increased risk of developing autism.
"So it's always important for pregnant women to discuss with their physician whether they are taking the right medication or they may change to another type of medication that may fit them better,” Dr. Jakob continued.
Researchers say after adjusting for other factors, the increased risk of developing autism could not be identified for other antiepileptic drugs.