Objective: To reassess the evidence for management issues related to the care of women with epilepsy (WWE) during pregnancy.
Methods: Systematic review of relevant articles published between January 1985 and June 2007.
Results: It is highly probable that intrauterine first-trimester valproate (VPA) exposure has higher risk of major congenital malformations (MCMs) compared to carbamazepine and possible compared to phenytoin or lamotrigine. Compared to untreated WWE, it is probable that VPA as part of polytherapy and possible that VPA as monotherapy contribute to the development of MCMs. It is probable that antiepileptic drug (AED) polytherapy as compared to monotherapy regimens contributes to the development of MCMs and to reduced cognitive outcomes. For monotherapy, intrauterine exposure to VPA probably reduces cognitive outcomes. Further, monotherapy exposure to phenytoin or phenobarbital possibly reduces cognitive outcomes. Neonates of WWE taking AEDs probably have an increased risk of being small for gestational age and possibly have an increased risk of a 1-minute Apgar score of <7.
Recommendations: If possible, avoidance of valproate (VPA) and antiepileptic drug (AED) polytherapy during the first trimester of pregnancy should be considered to decrease the risk of major congenital malformations (Level B). If possible, avoidance of VPA and AED polytherapy throughout pregnancy should be considered to prevent reduced cognitive outcomes (Level B). If possible, avoidance of phenytoin and phenobarbital during pregnancy may be considered to prevent reduced cognitive outcomes (Level C). Pregnancy risk stratification should reflect that the offspring of women with epilepsy taking AEDs are probably at increased risk for being small for gestational age (Level B) and possibly at increased risk of 1-minute Apgar scores of <7 (Level C).