Prenatal Triptan Exposure and Internalising and Externalising Behaviour Problems in 3-Year-Old Children: Results from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study

Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2016 Mar;30(2):190-200. doi: 10.1111/ppe.12253. Epub 2015 Nov 3.


Background: Triptans are commonly prescribed for migraine, a pain condition that is highly prevalent in women of childbearing age. No prior studies have investigated associations between exposure to triptans during fetal life and risk of externalising and internalising behaviours in children.

Methods: This study was set in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort study, a prospective birth cohort. A total of 41,173 live, singleton births without major malformations present at 36-month post-partum follow-up were included in this study; 396 used a triptan during pregnancy, 798 used a triptan prior to pregnancy only, 3291 reported migraine without triptan use, and 36,688 reported no history of migraine or triptan use. Marginal structural models were used to analyse the association between timing of triptan exposure and neurodevelopmental outcome.

Results: Children exposed to triptans during pregnancy had a 1.39-fold increased risk of externalising behaviours compared with those whose mothers used triptans prior to pregnancy only (95% CI 0.97, 1.97), a 1.36-fold increased risk compared with the unmedicated migraine group (95% CI 1.02, 1.81), and a 1.41-fold increased risk compared with the population comparison group (95% CI 1.08, 1.85). The greatest risk was associated with first trimester exposure (RR 1.77, 95% CI 0.98, 3.14). Risk differences were small, ranging from 3-6%.

Conclusions: This study found an increased risk of clinically relevant externalising behaviours in children with prenatal exposure to triptans, and this risk was highest for first trimester exposure. Absolute risks were small, and the results may be due to confounding by underlying migraine severity.

Keywords: neurodevelopment; pregnancy; triptans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child Behavior Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / epidemiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Migraine Disorders / drug therapy
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / chemically induced
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / epidemiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Serotonin 5-HT1 Receptor Agonists / adverse effects*
  • Tryptamines / adverse effects*


  • Serotonin 5-HT1 Receptor Agonists
  • Tryptamines