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A small study done by British scientists has shown that the use of epilepsy drug topiramate (brand name Topamax) in pregnancy increases the chances of birth defects.

Besides controlling epilepsy, Topamax is often prescribed for treating migraine headaches. Migraine headaches are common conditions that occur frequently in women of childbearing age.

Although many similar drugs also increase the risk of birth defects, the link between birth defects and topiramate had not been well studied until this report.

To confirm these results, more research needs to be done since it was a small study.

In the study, the researchers used women who became pregnant while taking topiramate alone or in combination with other epilepsy drugs. Out of the 178 babies born, 16 (4.8 percent) suffered from major birth defects. Among these babies, three of the mothers were taking topiramate exclusively, while 13 were taking topiramate with other epilepsy drugs.

Four of the babies had cleft palettes or cleft lips. That's a rate 11 times higher than one would expect among women not taking the drug.
Four male babies had genital defects, two of them classified as "major defects", which is a rate 14 times higher than normal.

The incidence of birth defects among women taking topiramate was higher than the rate of birth defects in the general population and there were also more birth defects among women taking topiramate along with the epilepsy drug valproate, compared with women taking topiramate and another epilepsy drug.

Although there is a risk with taking these drugs in pregnancy, it's crucial these women maintained effective epilepsy control because seizures too can harm the unborn baby.

It is important for all women of childbearing age who are on antiepileptic drugs to discuss preconception planning with their physician and understand the risks and benefits of their therapy to their children.

Women with epilepsy should definitely continue the treatment, if they depend on it to control the convulsive seizures but women who are taking it for migraine prevention should better discontinue it before conception.

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So whats a good drug for conception then??
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