Reproductive health in patients with epilepsy

Epilepsy Behav. 2020 Dec:113:107563. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2020.107563. Epub 2020 Nov 24.


The aim of the present study was to review existing knowledge on the impact of epilepsy in reproductive health of both sexes. Extensive searches of relevant documentation published until February 2020 were retrieved from PubMed and Google Scholar literature in English or in other languages with an English abstract. In females, epilepsy may lead to estrogen and androgen level abnormalities. Women with epilepsy may develop Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome (PCOS), anovulatory cycles, and menstrual disorders. In men, epilepsy may cause sex hormone dysregulation and influence spermatogenesis. Males with epilepsy may also suffer from sexual dysfunction. Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) have adverse effects on peripheral endocrine glands, influence hormones' biosynthesis and protein binding, diminish the bioactivity of serum sex hormones, and lead to secondary endocrine disorders related to changes concerning body weight and insulin sensitivity. Valproic acid (VPA) was the first recognized AED to cause disturbances potentially due to metabolic changes and increasing weight. Women taking VPA may develop PCOS, while men may have sperm abnormalities and/or sexual dysfunction. Liver enzyme inducing AEDs may also cause menstrual and sexual disorders in women and sexual dysfunction in men. Newer AEDs are much safer but studies still suggest reduced sexuality and erectile dysfunction.

Keywords: AEDs; Fertility; Menstrual disorders; PCOS; Sexual dysfunction; Valproic acid.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Epilepsy / complications*
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Female / chemically induced
  • Infertility, Female / etiology*
  • Infertility, Male / chemically induced
  • Infertility, Male / etiology*
  • Male
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / chemically induced
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / etiology
  • Reproductive Health
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / chemically induced
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / etiology*
  • Valproic Acid / adverse effects
  • Valproic Acid / therapeutic use


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Valproic Acid