Epilepsy and pregnancy: Report of an Epilepsy Research Foundation Workshop

Epilepsy Res. 2003 Jan;52(3):147-87. doi: 10.1016/s0920-1211(02)00237-1.


Pregnancy in women with epilepsy (WWE) is known to be associated with a higher risk of congenital malformations than is associated with pregnancy in non-epileptic women. Several factors have been identified to account for the increased risk, including the direct teratogenic effects of antiepileptic drug (AED) therapy, indirect effects of these drugs by interfering with folate metabolism, genetic abnormalities in drug or folate metabolism, and possibly an arrhythmogenic effect of maternal drug therapy on the embryonic heart, leading to ischaemia in developing tissues. A harmful effect of maternal seizures on the developing embryo has not been proven, although seizures and status epilepticus account for most of the excess maternal mortality in women with epilepsy. Abrupt withdrawal of drug therapy by the mother may be an important contributory factor. Less is known about the psychomotor development of children born to mothers with epilepsy because few studies have been designed to follow their progress throughout childhood. Retrospective studies suggest that impaired cognitive development may be associated with maternal drug therapy, particularly valproate. There is an urgent need to evaluate these risks and, with this in mind, several prospective registers have been set up to collect data from pregnancies in women with epilepsy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / epidemiology
  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects
  • Congenital Abnormalities / epidemiology
  • Epilepsy / complications
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / physiopathology*


  • Anticonvulsants