Epilim & autism?

I diddnt know till this evening that this epeleptic drug can cause autism, now though i did not take this when pregnant,do you think this could stay in your system or do something that causes it? i started taking this medication when i was around 15 to the age of 18 and wondering if this possibley could be the cause? however it should have well dissapeared out my system????/

  • It is too easy to feel guilty about these things. It is a big part of motherhood to feel responsible for the way our children turn out. There are hundreds of crazy theories about what may cause asd and most of them are nonsense. MMR, for example was blamed for a while.

    Most drugs are out of the body in a fairly short time, or reduced to an insignificant amount. I think that you would probably have to be taking a drug, while pregnant, for it to have any effect.

    Heredity has some effect. Perhaps you have a relative with asd.

    I am inclined to think that it is better to look forward, not back. Even if there was some small thing that you did, which contributed a little to the outcome, you did not know, cannot change what is past, and should focus on accepting and enjoying your children, just as they are. Focus on the needs of the family today and into the future.

    Guilt will undermine you and contribute nothing to your wellbeing for the future.

  • The media does enjoy dropping in these scare stories, but their editors don't have to think about the impact of their sensationalist accounts on parents. This story seems to have been fronted recently by the Daily Mail.

    There was a report earlier this year www.epilepsy.org.uk/.../new-study-links-sodium-valproate-autism

    Its the sodium valproate in epilim that's the issue. The Danish research shows an increased risk but doesn't advise mothers not taking this medication during pregnancy. In other words the beneficial effects of the medication are considered vastly more important than increased risk of autism births which is disproportionately small.

    There was also a study in the north of England by the Department of Medical & Clinical Pharmacology at Liverpool University www.epilepsy.org.uk/.../epilim-and-pregnancy

    They claim taking it made children more likely to be born with autism, ADHD or dyspraxia. Epilim alone incurs six times the risk, and with other epilepsy medications ten times the risk. Of 415 children, 19 had developmental problems by the age of 6, 12 being autism and 4 with dyspraxia.

    The study population was small, however (as is often the case with these researches) and doesn't necessarily rule out other factors. 12 out of 415 is under 3%.

    NAS however doesn't seem to have commented elsewhere, and you'd expect Government comments if serious, and there have been 8 or 9 months since these stories were reported. The fact it has only been picked up by papers like the Daily Mail suggest the impactt is not considered significant.

  • I should add that the background frequency of autism births runs at about 1.13%. At first that might look like more than doubling the incidence.

    However the Danish Study was from 1996 to 2006, a twenty year span. They were claiming five times the risk, but had a much lower background incidence figure, possibly averaged over the last thirty years.  The Liverpool University study showed a higher risk, but for a much smaller sample, about a twelfth the size.

    Had these figures had that impact we ought to have seen significantly higher incidence over the Danish timescale back to 1996. It might be though that this figures in the increase towards the current 1.13% in that timescale, but really a great deal more research would be needed.

    The drug has been taken by large numbers of women at pregnancy for more than thirty years. What may be important is the proportion of pregnant women taking it, which I couldn't readily find. If it was an issue I would have thought we would have heard a lot more about it.

    NAS at least should have made an issue of it.

  • I would look at the links between epilepsy itself and autism before worrying about the drug. Perhaps the close monitoring of people taking the drug revealed autistic traits that otherwise wouldn't have been noticed?


    MO4B, if you have epilepsy then perhaps you also have some mild autistic traits too?

  • The epilepsy may be what's termed a "red herring" here, unless mumof4boys772 was taking it for epilepsy. asnd even then it isn't relevant. It is also used to treat bipolar disorder and depression, and even migraines and is given to pregnant mothers to prevent seizures, which is the primary reason why it could affect newborn children.

    However OP took it earlier in life, not during pregancy, and its not likely that it had any impact more than a few weeks after ceasing the medication. 

    The occurrence of epilepsy comorbid with autism isn't at issue here, only that scientiists are now suggesting that if taken during pregnancy epilum ccould be a factor in autism in the child conceived.

  • The factor all these issues have in common is an association with MTHFR gene mutations. Of which I have many - so very interested in it.


    Epilim knocks out folate. Anyone taking it is advised to take folic acid supplements, as are pregnant women. However those with MTHFR mutations (30-40% of the population) cannot metabolise synthetic folic acid and one theory is that the unmetabolised folic acid cause issues. Which will vary depending on level/genetics/diet.

    Personal opinion is that as a precaution, supplement manufacturers should be forced to use the bioavailable (more expensive) form methyfolate rather than synthetic folic acid. At least until more is known about MTHFR - it is a very new field of research.

  • longman said:

    The epilepsy may be what's termed a "red herring" here, unless mumof4boys772 was taking it for epilepsy. asnd even then it isn't relevant.

    It may or may not be a red herring. Who is to say what is relevant or not? I am only trying to highlight information that may help to understand where her son's condition came from.

    Mo4B described epilem as as epilectic drug and that she took it from ages 15-18. My guess is that she was taking it for epilepsy. However the  use of the drug for the other conditions could also mean that there is am underlying link between the underlying condition, that was being treated, and the autism that has surfaced in her child.

    I, personally, think that there is some considerable comfort to be gained from understanding that autism is a stable and relatively benign condition that does not progress with age. Moreover, the condition responds well to care and consideration from the people around and from the person concerned getting a better understanding of what are the triggers and aggravating factors that can make the difference between entirely unbearable life and entirely managable and successful life.

    There are lots of possibilities here. SOI raises another interesting point about possible common factors with a genetic condition that could conceivably be related to all sorts of brain function conditions. I think that it is fair to say that we know that we don't know what caused the autism in her son. There is very little to be gained from her beating herself up for a drug that was taken some years ago that probably had nothing to do with her son's condition.

  • Well mumof4boys772 shouldn't feel obliged to tells us, which should be a confidential matter. 

    It doesn't matter why she was taking it as she took the medication a long time before her son was born.

    Recombinantsocks seems to be proposing, that as epilepsy is sometimes comorbid with autism, MO4B772 had autism (by inference she took epilim because of autism and not depression or migraines), and passed it on to her child? Its rather a long shot.

    Some parents who are diagnosed with autism have children who haven't got autism.

    Could we please drop the generational autism blame culture.

  • MO4B,

    I'm slightly baffled by Longman's use of the word "blame". I certainly didn't intend that you should feel responsible for your son's autism. I am really sorry if I caused any offence. I would agree with everything that Marjorie said about trying not to feel guilty and moving on and dealing with the future.

    @Longman: What was it that I said that implied blame? I know that I can make mistakes and that I can offend people sometimes but in this case I am a bit baffled. Perhaps you could explain why I have given offence?

  • I'm simply advising caution.

    But to be specific, the paragraph that concerns me is in your Saturday 18.22 posting that opens by quoting me suggesting epilepsy was a red herring.

    "Mo4B described epilim as an epileptic drug........My guess is she was taking it for epilepsy......there is am underlying link......and the autism that has surfaced in her child".

    I don't think it was right or proper to make those deductions.