Behavioral characteristics and cognitive development among school age children born to women with epilepsy

Neurol Res. 2015 Apr;37(4):295-300. doi: 10.1179/1743132814Y.0000000449. Epub 2014 Oct 13.


Introduction: Greater risks of congenital malformation as well as cognitive and behavioral development in later childhood occur as a result of in utero exposure to antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). We examined the effects of AEDs on behavioral characteristics and cognitive development among school age children born to women with epilepsy.

Methods: Children aged 6-15 years and born to women with epilepsy were enrolled in the study. Information was collected on the women's demographics and the details of their usage/non-usage of AEDs during pregnancy. The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for the Children-Revised (WICS-R) test was administered to the children. The Alexander IQ test and the Conner Parent Rating Scale (CPRS) were administered to the mothers. Comparisons were made between children who had been exposed and not exposed to AEDs in utero and if exposed, according to exposure to AED monotherapy or polytherapy. The mother's education level and IQ score and data from the same parent's siblings were evaluated with respect to consanguinity.

Results: Forty-one children born to 28 women with epilepsy were enrolled. Seven mothers had multiple pregnancies. Twenty-three pregnancies (56%) were exposed to monotherapy and five (12·1%) to polytherapy. The remaining 13 (31·7%) were not exposed to AEDs. Maternal education level was a significant major factor in child IQ development (P < 0·05). The performance IQ-coding scale results were lower in children exposed to polytherapy than in children exposed to monotherapy in utero (P < 0·05). Although it is difficult to assert with confidence, the sibling assessment indicated a negative effect of valproate on IQ.

Conclusion: It is important that the AED dosage be reduced to a minimum to maintain seizure control for healthy cognitive and behavioral development of a child.

Keywords: Antiepileptic drugs,; Cognitive behavioral development; Epilepsy,; Pregnancy,; Teratogenicity,.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / drug effects
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Developmental Disabilities / chemically induced*
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence / drug effects
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / psychology*


  • Anticonvulsants