Epilepsy and pregnancy: an obstetric perspective

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2004 Feb;190(2):371-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2003.09.020.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the obstetric and neonatal outcomes of women with prepregnancy diagnoses of epilepsy.

Study design: This was a cohort study of women with epilepsy (n=414 women) who were delivered in a tertiary referral center (1978-2000). Outcomes were compared with women who did not have epilepsy (n=81,759 women) who were delivered during the same period, with the use of t tests or contingency table analyses.

Results: Comparison showed increased rates of nonproteinuric hypertension (P<.05), induction of labor (P<.001), and fetal cardiovascular malformations (P<.001) among women with epilepsy. Rates of other antenatal, intrapartum, and neonatal complications and congenital malformations were similar to those of control subjects. There were fewer instrumental vaginal deliveries. There were no live births with neural tube defects. The occurrence of major antepartum seizures did not increase the rate of adverse outcomes significantly. Major congenital malformations increased in proportion to the number of anticonvulsants that were prescribed.

Conclusion: Women with epilepsy are not at increased risk for obstetric complications, provided that appropriate care is available during preconception, pregnancy, labor, delivery, and after delivery.

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / epidemiology
  • Adult
  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Apgar Score
  • Birth Weight
  • Delivery, Obstetric
  • Epilepsy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors


  • Anticonvulsants