(NaturalNews) Women who take the anticonvulsant drug topiramate (marketed as Topamax) while pregnant are at increased risk of giving birth to a child with developmental defects, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Royal Group of Hospitals in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and published in the journal Neurology.
"Until more information is available, topiramate use in women who plan on conceiving should be restricted to those in whom the drug is definitely needed for seizure control or other indications," said Orrin Devinsky, director of the New York University Epilepsy Center, who was not involved in the study. "Also, the mother should be informed of the potential risks to her child."
In addition to epileptic seizures, topiramate is also used in the treatment of migraines.
"These results should also get the attention of women with migraines and their doctors," lead researcher John Craig said, "since topiramate is also used for preventing migraines, which is an even more common condition [than epilepsy, and which] also occurs frequently in women of childbearing age."
The researchers found that the rate of all birth defects was higher in women taking topiramate, either alone or in conjunction with other anticonvulsant drugs, than it was among women not taking the drug. The rate of clefts lips and palates was 11 times higher than among the general population, while the rate of genital defects among male infants was 14 times higher.
There were more birth defects among women who took the epilepsy drugs topiramate and valproate together than among women who mixed topiramate and any other anticonvulsant drug.
The researchers noted that because epileptic seizures can also pose risks to infants, some women may want to continue their medication anyway. This sentiment was echoed by epilepsy expert Edward Barry Bromfield from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
"If they are taking it for migraine prevention, [however,] chances are they would want to discontinue it before conception," Bromfield said.