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breast feeding and epilepsy

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Breast feeding is encouraged since all the older anti-epileptic drugs are only excreted in low concentrations - Phenytoin, carbamazepine and sodium valproate are only found in low concentrations in breast milk (1)

  • blood levels of antiepileptic drugs in infants who are breast-fed are probably lower than in utero, but the possibility of sedation should be borne in mind in neonates of mothers taking carbamazepine, a benzodiazepine, phenobarbital or primidone (with respect to use of phenobarbital, fetal hepatic immaturity results in a considerable increase in its blood half life - up to 300 hrs)
    • if excessive sedation does occur then breast-feeding may need to be discontinued - however this step is rarely necessary
  • there is little evidence about the safety of breast-feeding while using the newer antiepileptic drugs; many drug companies do not recommend breast-feeding while taking these drugs (1)


  1. Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin 2005; 43(2):13-16.


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