Children whose mothers took valproate, a common epilepsy medication, during pregnancy were five times more likely to be diagnosed with childhood autism compared with those whose mothers did not take the drug, concludes a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. These children were also nearly three times more likely to have autism spectrum disorder, which includes Asperger syndrome and other developmental disorders. The findings are from a population-based study of 655,615 children born in Denmark from 1996 to 2006. Researchers identified 5,437 children with autism spectrum disorder, including 2,067 with its most severe form, childhood autism. Among children whose mothers had epilepsy, the risks remained higher for those exposed in utero to valproate compared with those who were not exposed to the drug. The authors conclude that women who take antiepileptic medication and who plan to have children should balance the new findings against the treatment benefits of valproate. Read the article.