Purpose of review
We review data on the comparative teratogenicity of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), focusing on major congenital malformations (MCMs), intrauterine growth restriction, impaired cognitive development, and behavioral adverse effects following prenatal exposure.
Prospective registries and meta-analyses have better defined the risk of MCMs in offspring exposed to individual AEDs at different dose levels. Valproate is the drug with the highest risk, whereas prevalence of MCMs is lowest with lamotrigine, levetiracetam, and oxcarbazepine. For valproate, phenobarbital, phenytoin, carbamazepine, and lamotrigine, the risk of MCMs is dose-dependent. Prenatal exposure to valproate has also been confirmed to cause an increased risk of cognitive impairments and autistic traits. In a population-based study, the risk of AED-induced autistic traits was attenuated by periconceptional folate supplementation.
The risk of adverse fetal effects differs in relation to the type of AED and for some AEDs also the daily dose. Although for MCMs the risk is primarily associated with the first trimester of gestation, influences on cognitive and behavioral development could extend throughout pregnancy. Available information now permits a more rational AED selection in women of childbearing potential, and evidence-based counseling on optimization of AED treatment before conception.