Anti-epileptic drugs in pregnancy: current safety and other issues

Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2003 Apr;4(4):445-56. doi: 10.1517/14656566.4.4.445.


Women with epilepsy of child-bearing years have their own considerations, which must be taken into account if management of their epilepsy is to be optimised. The main issues to consider include the effects of: female hormones on seizure control, anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) on hormonal methods of contraception, epilepsy and AEDs on fertility, epilepsy and AEDs on pregnancy itself, pregnancy on AEDs and seizure control and epilepsy, seizures and AEDs on the developing embryo/fetus. Whereas previous studies have concentrated on the increased risk of major congenital malformations from prenatal AED exposure, the effects on cognitive and behavioural development are increasingly being explored. This article looks at the evidence currently available for all of the above issues, taking into account the increased number of AEDs which are now available.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticonvulsants* / adverse effects
  • Anticonvulsants* / therapeutic use
  • Contraception
  • Epilepsy / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Fertility / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / prevention & control*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Risk Factors
  • Teratogens
  • Vitamin K Deficiency / chemically induced


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Teratogens