Epilepsy drug and effects on fetal development: Potential mechanisms

Leila Etemad, Mohammad Moshiri, Seyed A Moallem


  • Approximately 1% of all pregnancies are in woman with epilepsy. Although, the majority of children born to women with epilepsy are normal, they are at increased risk for malformations. Notably, the teratogenicity of antiepileptic drugs is a well-defined subject. The incidence of major malformations in offspring of mothers with epilepsy who were treated with AEDs is higher than women with untreated epilepsy and in the general population. These malformations include spina bifida, cleft palate, limb reduction defects, cardiac abnormalities, hypospadias, and gastrointestinal atresia. The exact mechanism by which the AEDs mediate abnormalities in the fetus is uncertain. However, there are several hypotheses to explain them. Some of the most important include folate-related actions, ischemia, reactive intermediates (e.g., free radicals), and genetic susceptibility. Thus, understanding the mechanisms of AED-related abnormalities is of vital importance for the care of epileptic women and their offspring.
  • Key words: Anti-epileptic drugs, epilepsy, pregnancy, teratogen

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