Carbatrol and Pregnancy

In studies on Carbatrol and pregnancy, the medication caused birth defects, such as head and facial deformities, spina bifida, and heart defects. Therefore, the FDA has classified it as a pregnancy Category D medication. However, if you are taking Carbatrol and pregnancy occurs, your healthcare provider may have you continue taking the medication if the benefits to you outweigh the risks to the unborn child.

Is Carbatrol Safe During Pregnancy?

Carbatrol® (carbamazepine) is a medication used to treat trigeminal neuralgia and epilepsy. It may not be safe for pregnant women. In studies (both animal and human) that looked at the effects of taking Carbatrol during pregnancy, the medication increased the risk of birth defects and other problems.
 

Carbatrol and Pregnancy Category D

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies the possible risks to a fetus when a specific medicine is taken during pregnancy using risk categories. 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 these risks. In other words, a pregnancy Category D medicine may still be given to a pregnant woman if the healthcare provider believes that the benefits to the mother outweigh the risks to the unborn child.
 
Studies involving women suggest that Carbatrol use during pregnancy increases the risk of birth defects, including head or facial deformities, spina bifida, and heart defects. Animal studies also show these risks. There have also been reports of seizures, breathing problems, vomiting, and diarrhea in newborns whose mothers were taking the drug during pregnancy.
 
However, uncontrolled epilepsy can be dangerous to both a pregnant woman and the fetus. You and your healthcare provider must discuss the specific benefits and risks of using Carbatrol during pregnancy in your particular situation. If your epilepsy is very mild (or if you have not had a seizure in several years), you may consider stopping the drug. However, if your epilepsy is severe or difficult to control, it may be best for you to stay on the medication. No matter what, do not stop taking Carbatrol suddenly (see Carbatrol Withdrawal).
 
If you and your healthcare provider decide that it is best for you to continue taking Carbatrol, you may need frequent blood tests to measure your Carbatrol levels. Pregnancy can affect the way your body handles the drug, and it is important to keep your dose at the lowest effective level to help protect your fetus. Also, it is best if you can take just one seizure medication rather than multiple seizure medications. Your healthcare provider may suggest a higher-than-usual dose of folic acid, as this may also help protect the fetus.
 
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