Study Finds Levetiracetam ‘Safe During Pregnancy’

Picture of pregnant woman

Children born to mothers who take levetiracetam during pregnancy are no more likely to have developmental disorders than the offspring of women not exposed to antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), according to a new report.



of Liverpool study, published in this month’s edition of the journal Neurology, evaluated the likelihood of cognitive, movement and language problems in three groups of children. 

Fifty-three subjects had been exposed to levetiracetam in the womb, while a further 44 were born to mothers who had been prescribed sodium valproate – one of the epilepsy treatments most commonly linked to birth defects.

Finally, 151 children comprised a control group who were not prenatally exposed to any AED.

Between the ages of three and four-and-a-half, the children were tested for normal developmentin areas such as language comprehension and motor skills.

The subjects whose mothers were prescribed levetiracetam during pregnancy did not differ from those born to women without exposure to AEDs, regardless of the test used to gauge development.

Conversely, those whose mothers took valproate scored an average of six points lower on language comprehension, ten points lower on expressive language and 16 points lower on movement tests.

Rebekah Shallcross, the study’s lead author, described the results as “heartening” given that levetiracetam use has increased in recent years despite limited information on how it affects children with prenatal exposure.

“However, this is the first study to look at the effects of levetiracetam and further research is needed before we can be certain there are no associations,” she added. “It is very important that women do not stop taking their medication before speaking to their healthcare professional.”

Pavel Klein, of the Mid-Atlantic Epilepsy and Sleep Center in Bethesda, Maryland, wrote a corresponding editorial in which he pointed out valproate prescriptions are on the decline for epilepsy patients.

The drug is still widely used to treat people with bipolar affective disorder and migraines, but typically in lower doses than for epilepsy. There is no data to suggest it affects children born to these subjects.

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