Predictors of ovulatory failure in women with epilepsy

Ann Neurol. 2002 Dec;52(6):704-11. doi: 10.1002/ana.10391.


Women with epilepsy (WWE) are at increased risk for reproductive disorders. This study was designed to evaluate whether WWE are more likely to have anovulatory cycles and to assess the relative association of the epilepsy syndrome category and antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) to ovulatory dysfunction. Subjects included women aged 18 to 40 years not receiving hormones. Women without epilepsy (23 controls) and women with localization-related epilepsy (LRE, n = 59) or idiopathic (primary) generalized epilepsy (IGE, n = 35) receiving either a cytochrome P450 enzyme (cP450) inducing AED (carbamazepine, phenytoin, and phenobarbital), a cP450 inhibiting AED (valproate), or an AED that does not alter cP450 enzymes (lamotrigine and gabapentin) in monotherapy for 6 months or more were followed for three menstrual cycles. A transvaginal ovarian ultrasound was obtained. Endocrine and metabolic variables were measured and luteinizing hormone sampled over 8 hours on days 2 to 5 of one cycle. Anovulatory cycles occurred in 10.9% of cycles in controls, 14.3% of cycles with LRE, and 27.1% of cycles with IGE. Of women using valproate currently or within the preceding 3 years, 38.1% had at least one anovulatory cycle in contrast with 10.7% of women not using valproate within the preceding 3 years. Predictors of ovulatory failure included IGE syndrome, use of valproate currently or within 3 years, high free testosterone, and fewer numbers of luteinizing hormone pulses, but not polycystic-appearing ovaries. WWE are more likely to experience anovulatory menstrual cycles and the effects of epilepsy syndrome, and AED therapy may be additive. Women with IGE receiving valproate were at highest risk for anovulatory cycles, polycystic-appearing ovaries, elevated body mass index, and hyperandrogynism. WWE with anovulatory cycles may have no other signs of reproductive dysfunction. Therefore, clinicians must be alert to this potential complication of epilepsy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anovulation / chemically induced
  • Anovulation / complications*
  • Anovulation / physiopathology
  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Epilepsy / complications*
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ovulation / drug effects
  • Ovulation / physiology
  • Prognosis
  • Valproic Acid / adverse effects


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Valproic Acid