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Neurology. 1992 Apr;42(4 Suppl 5):32-42.

Mechanisms of teratogenesis: folic acid and antiepileptic therapy.

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  • 1Neurogenetics Unit, Montreal Neurological Hospital and Institute, Quebec, Canada.


Gestational folate deficiency has been associated with abnormal growth and development in both experimental animal and human studies and has been postulated as a putative mechanism for the teratogenic effects of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). Animal studies have shown that the administration of AEDs results in folate depletion and teratogenic effects. Attempts to prevent the teratogenic effects of AEDs by coadministration of folate have shown variable results, perhaps because of a lack of understanding about the specific effects of AEDs on folate metabolism. Our prospective study of women with epilepsy showed that blood folate levels decreased with increasing plasma AED levels and with the number of AEDs. Low blood folate levels before and/or early in pregnancy were significantly associated with spontaneous abortion and the occurrence of developmental anomalies in the offspring. These findings suggest that folate supplementation might be one means of preventing the occurrence of abnormal pregnancy outcome in women with epilepsy, including neural-tube defects in the offspring.

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