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Should valproate be taken during pregnancy?

Authors Mervyn J Eadie, Frank JE Vajda

Published 15 April 2005 Volume 2005:1(1) Pages 21—26

Mervyn J Eadie1, Frank JE Vajda2

1Department of Medicine, University of Queensland, Royal Brisbane Hospital, Brisbane, QLD, Australia; 2Australian Centre for Clinical Neuropharmacology, Raoul Wallenberg Centre, Neurosciences and University of Melbourne at St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Abstract: The Australian Registry of Antiepileptic Drug Use in Pregnancy includes 172 instances in which women took sodium valproate, with or without other antiepileptic drugs, during pregnancy. These pregnancies resulted in a substantially higher (p < 0.05) rate of malformed offspring (15.1%) compared with 348 pregnant women who took antiepileptic drugs other than valproate (2.3%) and 40 pregnancies in epileptic women who took no antiepileptic drugs (2.5%). At valproate doses of 1400 mg and below per day, the mean rate of pregnancies with fetal malformations was 6.42% and did not seem to be dose-dependent. At higher valproate doses, the mean rate of pregnancy with fetal malformation was 33.9% and appeared to increase with increasing drug dosage. This finding suggests the need for reappraisal of the use of valproate in women who may become pregnant or are pregnant whilst the drug is taken. The therapeutic policy adopted may depend on whether valproate doses below 1400 mg per day are regarded as safe for the fetus. This study indicates that the risk of malformation associated with such doses was just statistically significantly (p < 0.05) higher than that associated with other antiepileptic drugs. Various possible clinical scenarios are discussed.
Keywords: epilepsy, malformations, pregnancy, valproate

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