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Epilepsia. 2009 Sep;50(9):2130-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1167.2009.02147.x. Epub 2009 Jun 1.

Pregnancy, delivery, and outcome for the child in maternal epilepsy.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Medicine, Section for Neurology, University of Bergen, Norway.



To investigate pregnancy, delivery, and child outcome in an unselected population of women with both treated and untreated epilepsy.


In the compulsory Medical Birth Registry of Norway, all 2,861 deliveries by women with epilepsy recorded from 1999-2005 were compared to all 369,267 nonepilepsy deliveries in the same period.


The majority (66%, n = 1900) in the epilepsy group did not use antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) during pregnancy. A total of 961 epilepsy-pregnancies were exposed to AEDs. Compared to nonepilepsy controls, AED-exposed infants were more often preterm (p = 0.01), and more often had birth weight <2,500 g (p < 0.001), head circumference <2.5 percentile (p < 0.001), and low Apgar score (p = 0.03). Small-for-gestational-age (SGA) infants (<10 percentile) occurred more frequently in both AED-exposed (p = 0.05) and unexposed (p = 0.02) epilepsy-pregnancies. Frequency of major congenital malformations (MCMs) was 2.8% (n = 81) in the epilepsy group versus 2.5% in controls (p = 0.3). Increased risk for MCMs could be demonstrated only for exposure to valproate (5.6%, p = 0.005) and AED polytherapy (6.1%, p = 0.02). Neonatal spina bifida was not significantly increased, but was a major indication for elective pregnancy termination among women with epilepsy. Cesarean section was performed more often in maternal epilepsy, regardless of AED-exposure (p < 0.001).


Adverse pregnancy and birth outcome in women with epilepsy is mainly confined to AED-exposed pregnancies, although some risks are associated also with untreated epilepsy. The risk for congenital malformations was lower than previously reported. This could be due to a shift in AED selection, folic acid supplement, or possibly reflect the true risks in an unselected epilepsy population.

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