Mothers with epilepsy no longer need to fear that their children will have an increased mortality in the first years of life, a new and comprehensive study from Aarhus University Hospital and Aarhus University in Denmark shows.
Special attention is given to the thriving of offspring of mothers with epilepsy – particularly in the time immediately following birth - because scientific studies have shown that these children have an increased risk of starting life with several challenges.
No studies have previously investigated if children born to mothers with epilepsy have an excess long-term mortality. Researchers from Aarhus University Hospital and Aarhus University have used Danish registries to study the mortality in offspring of mothers with epilepsy. The children were followed until they were 16 years of age.
Increased mortality only in the first year of life
The study found an increased mortality in children born to women with epilepsy but only in the first year of life; there was no increased mortality after the first year of life until the children reached the age of 16 years.
The increased mortality observed in the first year of life was not seen in infants in the last part of the study period from 2000 to 2016. This indicates that the treatment of women with epilepsy and their offspring has improved in recent years.
- It is very positive that we have not found an increased long-term mortality among children born to mothers with epilepsy. The increased mortality seen in the first year of life has decreased over time and we can no longer demonstrate any excess mortality – not even among the youngest children, says Jakob Christensen, one of the researchers behind the study and a consultant at Department of Neurology, Aarhus University Hospital and associate professor at Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University.
Epilepsy constitutes a considerable health risk. The mortality among persons with epilepsy is highly increased compared with the general population. This also applies to pregnant women with epilepsy, who have a 5-10-fold increased risk of mortality during pregnancy as well as an increased risk of pregnancy-related complications.
Data from more than 1.8 million children
Researchers from Aarhus University Hospital and Aarhus University have used registries to retrieve information about maternal epilepsy and mortality among the more than 1.8 million children born between 1981 and 2016.
Several previous studies have shown that children born to mothers with epilepsy often fail to thrive immediately after birth and have an increased risk of e.g., premature birth, low birth weight and congenital malformations. The difficult start in life is, however, no longer linked to increased mortality.
Julie W. Dreier, senior research at Department of Economics, Aarhus University, one of the researchers behind the study, is pleased with the result.
- Women with epilepsy are faced with a number of challenges during pregnancy, including worries about the potentially harmful effect of antiseizure medication and the risks associated with epileptic seizures. Concerns have been raised about an increased risk of e.g., traffic accidents in the offspring of women with epilepsy, says Julie W. Dreier.
- It is very reassuring that this study, based on a large dataset, can now demonstrate that the excess mortality observed in the first year of life in the first part of the study period is no longer seen in children born today.
Behind the research result:
Study type: Danish national cohort study
Collaborators: Department of Neurology, Aarhus University Hospital, Department of Clinical Medicine and Department of Economics, Aarhus University
External financing: The research project is supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation, Central Denmark Region and The Danish Epilepsy Association
Conflicts of interest: Jakob Christensen has received a fee for giving lectures and being a member of the advisory boards of UCB Nordics and Eisai Abs. Jakob Christensen has received funding for a travel for UCB Nordic. The other authors report no conflicts of interest.
Read the scientific article:
Jakob Christensen, Sussie Antonsen, Yuelian Sun and Julie W. Dreier. Maternal Epilepsy and Long-term Offspring Mortality: A Nationwide Cohort Study, Annals of Neurology DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/ana.26315
Jakob Christensen, MD, Consultant
Department of Neurology, Aarhus University Hospital
and Associated professor, Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University
Tel.: +45 6086 5899, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org