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How does tegretol affect unborn and nursing babies?

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Rajive Goel 24 Jul 2010

Tegretol & Pregnancy:

U.S. FDA uses a category system to classify the possible risks to a fetus when a specific medicine is taken during pregnancy. Pregnancy Category D is a classification given to medicines that have been shown to present a risk to the fetus in studies of pregnant women, but may still offer benefits that outweigh the risks the drug presents.

Studies involving women suggest that Tegretol use during pregnancy increases the risk of birth defects, including spina bifida, head or facial deformities, and heart defects. There have also been reports of seizures, breathing problems, vomiting, and diarrhea in newborns whose mothers were taking Tegretol during pregnancy.

However, uncontrolled epilepsy can be dangerous to both a pregnant woman and the fetus. You and your doc/pharmacist must discuss the specific benefits and risks of using Tegretol during pregnancy in your particular situation. If the epilepsy is mild (or if one has not had a seizure in several years), one may consider stopping Tegretol. However, if the epilepsy is severe or difficult to control, it may be best to stay on the medication. No matter what, do not stop taking Tegretol suddenly.

If the doc/pharmacist decide that it is best to continue taking Tegretol, one may need frequent blood tests to measure levels. Pregnancy can affect the way the body handles Tegretol, and it is important to keep the dose at the lowest effective level to help protect the fetus. The doc/pharmacist may suggest a higher-than-usual dose of folic acid, as this may also help protect the fetus.

Tegretol & Nursing:

Tegretol (carbamazepine) passes through breast milk. Because of the potentially serious side effects that could occur in the nursing infant, the manufacturer of the drug does not recommend that women breastfeed while taking Tegretol. Therefore, make sure to let the doc/pharmacist who prescribed the med know if you are breastfeeding or thinking of breastfeeding.

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