Paternal exposure to antiepileptic drugs and offspring outcomes: a nationwide population-based cohort study in Sweden

J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2020 Sep;91(9):907-913. doi: 10.1136/jnnp-2020-323028. Epub 2020 Jul 10.


Objectives: To investigate the association between paternal use of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) and adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes and major congenital malformations (MCM) in the offspring.

Methods: Using nationwide Swedish registries, we included 1 144 795 births to 741 726 fathers without epilepsy and 4544 births to 2955 fathers with epilepsy. Of these, 2087 (45.9%) were born to fathers with epilepsy who had dispensed an AED during the conception period. Children who had both parents with epilepsy were excluded. The incidence rate of MCM, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and intellectual disability in offspring was analysed.

Results: Offspring of fathers exposed to AEDs did not show an increased risk of MCM (adjusted OR 0.9, 95% CI 0.7 to 1.2), autism (adjusted HR (aHR) 0.9, 95% CI 0.5 to 1.7), ADHD (aHR 1.1, 95% CI 0.7 to 1.9) or intellectual disability (aHR 1.3, 95% CI 0.6 to 2.8) compared with offspring of fathers with epilepsy not exposed to AEDs. Among offspring of fathers with epilepsy who used valproate in monotherapy during conception, rates of autism (2.9/1000 child-years) and intellectual disability (1.4/1000 child-years) were slightly higher compared with the offspring of fathers with epilepsy who did not use AEDs during conception (2.1/1000 child-years autism, 0.9/1000 child-years intellectual disability), but in the propensity-score adjusted analyses, no statistically significant increased risk of adverse outcomes was found.

Conclusions: Paternal AED use during conception is not associated with adverse outcomes in the offspring.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / epidemiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects*
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology*
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child of Impaired Parents / statistics & numerical data*
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Intellectual Disability / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Paternal Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Registries / statistics & numerical data
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Anticonvulsants