Pregnancy and Epilepsy: A Retrospective Study of 151 Pregnancies

Acta Neurol Scand. 1998 Mar;97(3):164-70. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0404.1998.tb00631.x.


Objective: We studied the course of pregnancy in women with epilepsy to identify possible risk factors which might complicate the epilepsies and pregnancy outcomes.

Material and methods: Data were collected retrospectively from the records of 151 pregnancies in 124 women with epilepsy from 1978-1992. Epilepsy variables were compared with that of non-pregnant women with epilepsy matched for age. Obstetric and neonatal variables were compared with those of all deliveries in the same unit from 1979-1992 (n=38,983).

Results: Pregnancy among patients with epilepsy was more likely to occur in women with relatively mild epilepsy. In 12% of the pregnancies, the women were untreated while 71% were on monotherapy. Twenty-one percent had increased seizure frequency during the pregnancy. Perinatal deaths among newborns of epileptic mothers (1.3%) was more frequent but not significantly increased compared to the background population of 0.5% (95% CI 0.2-4.7). A total of 5.3% had congenital malformations compared to 1.5% in the controls (95% CI 2.3-10.3). No neural tube defects were observed. Maternal treatment with phenytoin was significantly related to the occurrence of congenital malformations, P=0.04.

Conclusions: Most women with epilepsy have an uncomplicated pregnancy and normal healthy offsprings. Maternal treatment with phenytoin might be associated with congenital malformations. No other risk factors could be identified.

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced / epidemiology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anticonvulsants / adverse effects
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy Outcome / epidemiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seizures / epidemiology


  • Anticonvulsants