How to Weigh the Pros and Cons
Finding out you are pregnant is one of the most exciting and life-changing events a woman can experience. However, what if you are taking an antiepileptic drug (AED) that you rely on for your health and well-being? The first question you might ask yourself is, “can I still take my medication while pregnant?” You might be tempted to put the health of your unborn baby ahead of yours and stop all medication at once, yet you might be doing more harm than good. It’s important to never stop medication until you’ve consulted your health care provider.
This illustrates the need to have the most accurate and up-to-date information about medications’ effects during pregnancy. “As long as there are drugs on the market, someone should be monitoring them, but that’s simply not always the case,” said Lewis B. Holmes, MD, Director of the North American AED Pregnancy Registry and Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “It’s important to understand how the medication you are taking can affect the health of the baby if you continue taking it and affect your health if you stop taking it,” he said.
Here are some things to think about when deciding whether to take your AEDs during pregnancy, according to Dr. Holmes:
If you are taking an AED, you most likely rely on this medication to treat serious symptoms related to epilepsy, mood disorders, migraine headaches and chronic pain. These drugs are vital to keeping the mother feeling her best both mentally and physically so be sure to talk to your health care provider about them if pregnant or planning a pregnancy.
Symptoms can worsen during pregnancy. If you aren’t feeling your best, this might have negative side effects on your unborn baby. Be sure to communicate any changes in your symptoms to your doctor immediately.
There are a few AEDs developed within the last 12 years that are showing some promising results for being less risky to take during pregnancy. Talk to you doctor about the possibility of switching prescriptions to reduce the chance of birth defects.
Dr. Holmes’ vision for this Registry, as well as others like it, includes automatically having a pregnancy registry firmly in place studying a new drug’s effects on pregnancy outcome as soon as it hits the market, not years later. “The more answers that are available quickly surrounding the effects of medications on the health of unborn babies, the more confidence woman and health care providers will have to make informed decisions about continuing medications during pregnancy.”