Facebook Pixel

Risk of Oral Birth Defects After Taking Topamax (Topiramate) During Pregnancy

Rate This

Topamax is an anticonvulsant drug used to treat epilepsy. It is also used to prevent migraines. Between 2007-2010, there were 32.3 million prescriptions for Topamax filled out. Now the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that the drug can cause oral birth defects, such as cleft lip and cleft palate, in babies whose mothers take it during pregnancy.

Cleft lip and cleft palate occur when parts of the lip or palate fail to completely close together early in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Infants born with the defect may have difficulties feeding, and as they get older, difficulties with talking. They are also more likely to have ear infections. Babies with the defect are usually offered surgery to correct the issue.

“Health care professionals should carefully consider the benefits and risks of topiramate when prescribing it to women of childbearing age,” Russell Katz, M.D., director of the Division of Neurology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said. “Alternative medications that have a lower risk of birth defects should be considered.”

Data from the North American Antiepileptic Drug (AED) Pregnancy Registry shows that 1.4 percent of babies whose mothers took Topamax during their pregnancy were born with cleft lip or cleft palate. This is a worse defect rate than for other epilepsy drugs which cause defects in about 0.38-0.55 percent of cases.

Based on this data, the Topamax will be changed from a category C drug to a category D drug, which means that there is positive evidence of human fetal risk.

The drug should not be used for pregnant women if their condition is not life threatening.

What Should Patients Do?

If you are epileptic, talk to your doctor about alternative treatments. Topamax is only one option. There are other epilepsy medications.

If you are pregnant, or intend to become pregnant, and you are taking Topamax, tell your doctor.

Topamax passes through breast milk and its effects on babies are unknown. Talk to your doctor about an alternative medication while breast feeding.

If you don’t want a baby and you would like to take Topamax, make sure you also have an effective method of contraception.


Add a Comment1 Comments

This was perscribed to me as a mood stabilizer and seemed to work fine, almost too good taking away my high highs and low lows. My friend was perscribed this for her migranes and she had the serious side effect of blindness for 5 days!!! This drug seems to have too many consequences, unless of course it is lifesaving for you...

April 21, 2011 - 10:01pm
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


Get Email Updates

Related Topics

Epilepsy Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!