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Epilepsy Meds Safe for Creativity, Not Planning Skills

— June 21, 2024

New epilepsy medications in pregnancy don’t affect children’s creativity but may impact executive function.

Pregnant women with epilepsy can breathe a sigh of relief – a new study suggests that newer epilepsy medications do not affect a child’s creativity. This finding contradicts previous research on older medications, offering reassurance to mothers who require medication to control seizures during pregnancy.

The study, which was published in the esteemed journal Neurology on May 29, 2024, and conducted by researchers from Stanford University, delved into the cognitive development of children born to mothers with epilepsy. The team’s unique focus on creativity and executive function, encompassing skills such as planning, focus, and multitasking, provides a comprehensive understanding of the potential impact of epilepsy medications on children’s cognitive abilities.

Overall, the study found no significant differences in creativity scores between the two groups. This held true even when researchers looked at varying levels of anti-seizure medications present in the mothers’ blood during the third trimester, a measure known as ‘medication exposure ‘. However, an interesting detail emerged. Children with higher medication exposure in the third trimester, particularly those exposed to levetiracetam, showed poorer performance in tests assessing executive function.

Dr. Kimford Meador, the study’s lead author and a professor of neurology at Stanford University, said, adding, “Our findings highlight that even for epilepsy medications generally considered safe in pregnancy, dose adjustments might be necessary.”

Epilepsy Meds Safe for Creativity, Not Planning Skills
Photo by Artem Podrez from Pexels

Dr. Meador emphasizes the goal of achieving an optimal balance between controlling seizures and minimizing potential effects on the developing child.

The study involved 251 children of mothers with epilepsy and 73 children born to mothers without the condition. The children were evaluated at four and a half years old using a creativity test that involved completing or adding illustrations to a provided shape. This test measured fluency, flexibility, and originality in their thinking.

While the study brings encouraging news about creativity, it’s important to note its limitations. Cognitive evaluations at a young age may not accurately predict future development. This opens the door for further studies to assess the long-term impact of medications on children, offering hope and optimism for the future.

While the study brings encouraging news about creativity in young children, it’s important to note its limitations due to the age of the participants. Still, this research offers valuable insights for pregnant women with epilepsy and their doctors. While newer medications appear safe for creative development, potential effects on executive function warrant further investigation. The key takeaway is the importance of individualized care, which involves specific strategies or considerations in medication management, such as regularly monitoring medication levels and adjusting doses as needed to optimize seizure control while considering potential effects on the developing child. Open communication between doctors and patients throughout pregnancy is crucial to ensure the best possible outcomes for both mother and child.

“There is still so much to learn about the impact of a mother’s epilepsy medications on their child’s creative development,” Meador said. “More studies are needed, especially in older children, to assess the full effect of these medications on childhood development.”


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