Friday, April 26, 2013

Prenatal Valproate Exposure Raises Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark reported April 24 in JAMA that maternal use of valproate during pregnancy is associated with a significantly increased risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and childhood autism, even after adjusting for maternal epilepsy. The population-based study included all children born in Denmark from 1996 to 2006.

"Valproate is generally regarded as a bad drug to take while pregnant," said Gail Robinson, M.D., director of the Women's Mental Health Program of the University Health Network of Toronto and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, who commented on the study for Psychiatric News. Robinson noted that valproate is also associated with increased risk for atrial septal defect, hypospadias, cleft palate, craniosynostosis, and spina bifida, at rates that far outweigh the risks for ASD. "For all of these reasons, psychiatrists who specialize in peripartum mental health disorders try to avoid its use during pregnancy...whether or not it increases the risk of autism, where possible it should be eliminated during pregnancy and a safer drug substituted."

To read a detailed report of preliminary findings from this study, see Psychiatric News here

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