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Study Shows Increased Risk of Developmental Delays for Children Exposed to Epilepsy Medication in Utero

Many people rely on prescription drugs to treat their epilepsy, including many women of childbearing age. In fact, according to WebMD, approximately 0.2 to 0.5 percent of pregnant women use antiepileptic drugs while pregnant.

Troublesome new data has come to light, however, which indicates that the children of women to take epilepsy medications during pregnancy may be at an increased risk for physical and mental developmental delays early in life.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers, led by Dr. Gyri Veiby from Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, Norway. From 1999 through 2008, the researchers recruited mothers at 13 to 17 weeks of pregnancy, with the mothers subsequently reporting whether their children exhibited any developmental delays or autistic traits at 18 months and then again at 36 months.

The study found that 333 children were exposed to epilepsy drugs while in the womb, and that those children had an increased risk of abnormal gross motor skills and autistic traits at 18 months. At 36 months, the children also showed an increase in delays for gross motor skills and sentence skills, as well as increased autistic traits, compared to children who had not been exposed to the epilepsy drugs.

The researchers noted that those children who had been exposed to epilepsy drugs before birth also had an increased risk of birth defects compared to children not exposed to the drugs in utero. Risk of developmental delays were not increased for those children who were born to women with epilepsy who did not use epilepsy drugs during pregnancy, nor were the risks increased for children of fathers with epilepsy.

The researchers stressed the importance of good seizure control during pregnancy. Accordingly, doctors and patients should discuss the possible risks of developmental delays and birth defects, along with the need for anti-seizure medication. If a doctor fails to adequately inform an epileptic patient who is taking seizure medication of the risks associated with the drug, the doctor may be liable for any resulting injuries or complications in a medical malpractice lawsuit.

If you suspect that your child may have suffered a birth injury, it is important to get the appropriate medical testing and treatment as soon as possible. You may also want to contact a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney. At Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish, our Chicago birth injury attorneys focus on helping families deal with the legal and financial aftermath of a birth injury, such as cerebral palsy, forceps injuries, seizures, brain damage, and developmental delays. We are dedicated to obtaining full and fair compensation.

If your child suffers from developmental delays as a result of epilepsy medication, contact the Chicago birth injury lawyers at Steinberg, Goodman & Kalish to schedule a free consultation to discuss a possible medical malpractice claim. We will determine whether you were adequately informed of the risks associated with taking epilepsy medication during pregnancy and if a medical error may have been responsible for your child's birth injuries.


Steinberg Goodman & Kalish  (www.sgklawyers.com) is dedicated to protecting victims and their families.  We handle medical malpractice, product liability, personal injury, wrongful death, auto accidents, professional negligence, birth trauma, and railroad law matters. Contact us at (800) 784-0150 or (312) 782-1386.