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Headache Preventive Depakote Taken During Pregnancy Linked to Lower IQ in Children

Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should avoid taking valproate (used in Depakote, Depakene and Depacon), according to researchers who found that the drug can reduce children’s IQs. Depakote is a widely used headache preventive.

“[Researchers] found that the intelligence quotient of 2-year-old children was an average of 12 points lower when expectant moms took valproate compared with three other drugs — Lamictal, carbamazepine or phenytoin.

“In addition, 24% of toddlers born to mothers who took valproate had IQ scores that would put them in the mental retardation range — that is, below 70 points on the standard IQ test, says Kimford Meador, MD, professor of neurology at the University of Florida in Gainesville.

“That compares unfavorably with 9% to 12% for the other drugs, he says.”

Please don’t stop taking the drug without consulting your doctor. The side effects from stopping it abruptly can be ugly.

For more information:

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Migraines During Pregnancy Linked to Heart Disease & Stroke

Women who have migraines during pregnancy have a greater risk of stroke or heart disease than pregnant women who don’t. Using pregnancy discharge data from nearly 17 million women in the US, researchers found that almost 34,000 women had been treated for migraines. These women were 19 times
more likely to suffer a stroke, five times more likely to have a heart
attack and more than twice as likely to have heart disease, blood clots
and other vascular problems.

The study uncovered a possible link, not proof that having migraines directly causes stroke or heart disease. As with nearly every study on migraine and other headache disorders, it establishes that people with one disorder are more likely than the general population to have another (often referred to as comorbidity), not cause and effect. It’s just enough to open up further research on the subject.

Articles on this study recommend prevention over treating migraines as they occur. Headache specialist Richard Lipton makes a point that everyone with headache should consider.

“People with migraine should view migraine the same way they would view diabetes or high cholesterol, as a medical problem that should be managed to make life better today and prevent complications tomorrow. Rather than being alarmed, people with migraine should get the migraines treated and make sure they modify risk factors for heart disease and stroke by maintaining a normal body weight and treating high blood pressure.”

The slew of not-so-good news of late is tempered by good news about migraine and memory. It is also a reminder to pay attention to your health as a whole, not just your headaches or migraines. I’m getting better at this, particularly in my diet, but it’s impossible to avoid all the risk factors for any illness. I figure that everything I do or encounter can possibly kill me, so I do the best I can without freaking out.

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Headaches, Hormones & Breastfeeding: Purely Anecdotal But Interesting

I saw a new OB/GYN last week (and loved her). Not surprisingly, we talked about headaches and hormones. Turns out she has frequent headaches too, which she thinks are hormonal.

When I asked how they were when she was pregnant, she said that they were better during her pregnancy and while she was breastfeeding. When her milk production slowed down and she began to wean her son, she had a two-week long headache. During this time, of course, her hormone levels were changing. She also said that her friend had the same experience. This is anecdotal of course, but it’s food for thought.

I don’t have any firsthand knowledge of what hormonal headaches are about (I flirted with the idea that mine are menstrual, but am sure they aren’t), but some resources include American Council for Headache Education, the National Headache Foundation and the National Women’s Health Information Center. I found this last resource to be most helpful.

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New Paxil Warning for Pregnant Women Issued

Paxil (paroxetine) has a greater risk of causing birth defects in developing fetuses than other antidepressants, according to an FDA-issued press release from last week. With other antidepressants, the risk of birth defects is 1%. Studies show that the risk increases to between 1.5% and 2% with Paxil. A similar warning was issued in September; the new warning states that Paxil’s risk is  even greater than reported in the previous warning.

However, women who take the drug and are pregnant or trying to conceive should not necessarily stop taking it. The dangers of going off the drugs may be greater than the risk of birth defects, according to the FDA.

If you are concerned about taking the drug, make an appointment with your doctor — even if you’re absolutely positive that you want to go off it. If you don’t decrease the dose of an antidepressant slowly, you’ll feel terrible. Trust me, I know.

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Using Anticonvulsants During Pregnancy May Change Baby’s Head Shape

Mom’s Epilepsy Meds May Alter Infant Head Shape

“Women who use anticonvulsants during pregnancy may increase the risk of delivering an infant with a rare condition called craniostenosis, a study hints.

“The skull consists of five thin, curved, bony plates that meet along lines called sutures. At birth, the bony plates of the skull are not completely joined along the sutures. This allows the baby’s head and brain to grow and develop after birth. After age 2, the sutures begin to close so that the bones can join or fuse together.”

Researchers noted that women who take antidepressants may also have an increased risk for delivering babies with this condition.