Research led by Lausanne University Hospital has shown that pregabalin, a drug often used in the treatment of pain, epilepsy, anxiety and other brain health disorders, is associated with an increased risk of major birth defects.
During the study, information was collected in seven countries from 164 women who took pregabalin during pregnancy, and from 656 pregnant women not taking any anti-seizure drugs. The women or their practitioners were then contacted again after their expected date of delivery.
The results, published in the medical journal Neurology, indicated that the women who took pregabalin during the first trimester of pregnancy were three times more likely to have a baby with a major birth defect than those who did not take anti-seizure drugs.
Major birth defects included heart defects and structural problems with the central nervous system or other organs. Women taking pregabalin were six times more likely to have a pregnancy with a major defect in the central nervous system, making this a particularly high risk.
A total of 77% of the women taking pregabalin in this study started taking the drug before becoming  pregnant, and stopped the treatment an average of six weeks into their pregnancies.
Study author Dr Ursula Winterfeld of the Swiss Teratogen Information Service and Lausanne University Hospital said: “Pregabalin should be prescribed for women of childbearing age only after making sure that the benefits of the drug outweigh the risks and after counseling them about using effective birth control.
“In cases where women have taken pregabalin during pregnancy, extra fetal monitoring may be warranted.”
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