Certain types of epilepsy drugs taken during pregnancy increase the risk of psychiatric disorders among children, a new study has found.

Researchers from Arhus University conducted a comprehensive study of 38,000 children born to mothers with epilepsy to understand the mental health impact of epileptic medications.

Earlier studies have already linked some types of antiseizure medications used during pregnancy to an increased risk of birth defects.

The new study, published in JAMA Neurology, found a connection between the antiseizure medication valproate and a higher risk of developing several different psychiatric disorders.

"Our study shows that four out of 10 children born to mothers with epilepsy who had used valproate during pregnancy were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder before the age of 18, and that the drug was particularly associated with an increased risk of diseases such as autism, ADHD and intellectual disability," Jakob Christensen, one of the researchers behind the study, said, as per Neuroscience News.

The study was conducted across Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland and evaluated children born from January 2016 to December 2017.

The researchers found that 42% of children whose mothers used valproate during pregnancy developed a psychiatric disorder before the age of 18. However, only 31% of children whose mothers did not take antiseizure medication during pregnancy developed a psychiatric disorder.

The study also revealed that taking antiseizure drugs topiramate or levetiracetam during pregnancy can increase the risk of ADHD and anxiety disorders in children.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, valproate is associated with a higher risk of birth defects and lower mental and cognitive abilities in children.

"If you take valproate during pregnancy, know that there is a higher risk that your child may have birth defects or may score lower on cognitive tests (tests that measure mental ability and capacity, such as IQ tests) in childhood than if you use another anti-seizure medicine during pregnancy," FDA reportedly warned.

The new study affirms existing warnings issued against valproate usage during pregnancy and raises caution against the use of topiramate and levetiracetam.

However, some of the most common epileptic drugs such as lamotrigine, carbamazepine and oxcarbazepine were not found to have an increased risk of psychiatric disorders.

"Our study shows that there is a need for more research and more accurate risk estimates to help pregnant women with epilepsy and their doctors make informed decisions about the use of medicine during pregnancy," Christensen explained.

Antiseizure medication valproate taken during pregnancy increases the risk of developing several different psychiatric disorders in children. pixabay