Purpose: In order to evaluate long-term effects on neurodevelopment in children born to women with epilepsy during pregnancy we studied the children’s school grades at age 16.
Methods: We used the Patient Register, the Medical Birth Register, and a local study at South Hospital, Stockholm, to identify women with epilepsy in Sweden who had given birth between 1973 and 1986. The Swedish School Mark Registry was used to obtain information about school grades from the last year of compulsory school, at age 16. Exposed children were compared to all other children born in Sweden between 1973 and 1986.
Key Findings: Medical records were analyzed for 1,235 children. Six hundred forty-one children had been exposed in utero to antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) in monotherapy, 429 in polytherapy, and 165 to no known AED. Children exposed to polytherapy had an increased risk of not receiving a final grade—odds ratio (OR) 2.99 [95% confidence interval (CI) 2.14–4.17]. Children exposed to monotherapy, mainly carbamazepine or phenytoin, did not have a significantly increased risk of not receiving a final grade—OR 1.19 (95% CI 0.79–1.80). Children born to women with epilepsy had a decreased chance of getting a “pass with excellence.”
Significance: Exposure to several AEDs in utero may have negative effects on neurodevelopment, and polytherapy should, if possible, be avoided in pregnant women.