AES: Prenatal Valproate Exposure Tied to Autism Risk

More than double risk of autism spectrum disorder; more than four-fold risk of childhood autism

MONDAY, Dec. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Children born to mothers with epilepsy who are exposed to valproate medication during pregnancy are at an increased risk for autism spectrum disorders and childhood autism, according to a study being presented at the annual meeting of the American Epilepsy Society, held from Dec. 2 to 6 in Baltimore.

Jakob Christensen, M.D., from the Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, investigated whether valproate treatment during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of autism in offspring. The population-based cohort study included 655,691 children born to 428,431 mothers between 1996 and 2006. Mothers with epilepsy, who redeemed a prescription for valproate medication between 30 days before the estimated conception day and the day of birth, were identified. Their children with autism spectrum disorder, and those in a subgroup diagnosed with childhood autism, were identified. Autism risk in these children was estimated, after adjusting for parental psychiatric history, maternal age, and child gender.

Christensen found that children exposed to valproate during pregnancy had more than double the relative risk of autism spectrum disorder, compared with children not exposed to antiepileptic medication during pregnancy (relative risk [RR], 2.6). Valproate mono- and poly-therapy exposure was associated with an RR of 2.6 and 2.5, respectively, for autism spectrum disorder. The RR for childhood autism in children with in utero valproate exposure was 4.8. Valproate mono- and poly-therapy exposure was associated with an RR of 4.1 and 6.8, respectively, for childhood autism.

"The risk of autism spectrum disorder and childhood autism is increased in children born of mothers with epilepsy who were exposed to valproate during pregnancy," the author writes.

Abstract No. B.09
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