Women suffering from epilepsy can breastfeed their newborns without resulting in any health issues or at least the following piece of information suggests so. According to a recent study, breastfeeding while taking epilepsy medication does not affect child’s IQ later on. It was pointed out that intake of more than one epilepsy drug at a time during pregnancy can possibly heighten risk of birth defects.

While conducting the study, 194 pregnant women taking one epilepsy drug were scrutinized. From a total of 199 babies, 42 percent were breastfed. After the age of 3 years kids had to give IQ tests. On examining the results no difference in IQ scores between the children who were breastfed and those who were not appeared. While those breastfed scored 99 on the test, children who were not scored 98. Drugs consumed by the participant included carbamazepine, lamotrigine, phenytoin, or valproate.

“Many women are counseled not to breastfeed due to the lack of information on the effects of these drugs, but breastfeeding has many positive emotional effects for the mother and the baby along with the decreased risks for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity in the child and breast and ovarian cancer in the mother. This study highlights the pressing need for more data on epilepsy drugs in breast milk and the long-term effects,” shared Kimford Meador, MD, of Emory University in Atlanta and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) and lead investigator.

Lower IQ scores were reported by kids whose mothers were taking valproate, irrespective of whether or not they were breastfed. As per the guidelines laid down by the American Academy of Neurology, valproate intake has to be avoided during pregnancy. The medication apparently triggers birth defects and creates an impact on cognitive skills. Further investigations can be initiated on the effects of other, newer drugs for epilepsy.

The study was published online in the issue of Neurology on the November 24, 2010.