Valproic acid use in fertile women with genetic generalized epilepsies


In genetic generalized epilepsies (GGE), valproic acid (VPA) is the most efficacious compound. However, due to teratogenicity and increased risk for impaired cognitive development after intrauterine exposure, its use in women of fertile age is strictly regulated but sometimes unavoidable.


All patients with GGE treated at the outpatient clinic of a tertiary epilepsy center with at least one visit between January 2015 and April 2020 were included in this retrospective study. The rate of women aged 18 to 49 years taking VPA was compared to that of men of the same age group and to women > 49 years. Furthermore, in each group, clinical variables associated with VPA use were sought.


Twenty-eight out of 125 women of fertile age (22%) were treated with VPA, compared to 28 out of 56 men ≤ 49 years (50%; p = .002) and to 22 out of 40 female patients > 49 years (55%; p < .001). VPA dose was lower in fertile women compared to men, with no difference in seizure freedom rates. In women ≤ 49 years, multivariate analysis demonstrated age as the only variable independently associated with VPA use (OR 1.095; 95% CI 1.036–1.159). In the other two groups, no associated variables were identified.


Despite warnings with respect to teratogenicity and impaired cognitive development with VPA, from 2015 to 2020, almost every fourth women of fertile age with GGE received this compound. Inevitably lower VPA doses in these women seem sufficient for favorable seizure freedom rates.

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