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Keywords:

  • Anticonvulsant drugs;
  • barbiturates;
  • cognitive functioning;
  • delayed effects;
  • functional teratology;
  • gender;
  • hydantoins;
  • prenatal exposure;
  • reproductivity

Based on neonatal examination at birth, it has been estimated that epileptic women have a 2–3 times greater risk of giving birth to an infant with congenital anomalies. But anticonvulsant drugs may also have more subtle influences on the developing foetus which are not visible at birth but only emerge later in life. Evidence for these functional teratogenic influences has been provided by animal research and follow-up studies in young children. This article discusses these findings in human and animal studies. In addition, the outline of a study carried out at the Department of Obstetrics and Neonatology, Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam, is described. In this study cognitive functioning, fertility and gender role behaviour of young adults, who had been prenatally exposed to barbiturates and/or hydantoins was examined.