Folic Acid and Risk of Preterm Birth, Preeclampsia, and Fetal Growth Restriction Among Women With Epilepsy: A Prospective Cohort Study

Background and Objectives

Women with epilepsy treated with antiseizure medication (ASM) have increased risk of pregnancy complications including preterm birth, fetal growth restriction, and preeclampsia. We aimed to investigate whether folic acid supplementation is associated with these pregnancy complications in women with epilepsy using ASM.


Singleton pregnancies in the prospective Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study (MoBa) (1999–2008) were included. Information on maternal epilepsy, ASM, folic acid supplementation, and pregnancy outcomes was obtained from the MoBa questionnaires and the Norwegian Medical Birth Registry. The main exposure, periconceptional folic acid supplementation, was defined as intake between 4 weeks before pregnancy and 12 weeks into pregnancy, retrospectively collected by recall of the mothers in weeks 17–19. The primary outcomes were preterm birth (gestational age <37 weeks at birth), small for gestational age (SGA), and preeclampsia.


The study included 100,105 pregnancies: 99,431 without maternal epilepsy, 316 with maternal epilepsy and ASM exposure in pregnancy, and 358 with untreated maternal epilepsy. Among ASM-treated women with epilepsy, the risk of preterm birth was higher in those who did not use periconceptional folic acid (n = 64) compared with those who did (n = 245, the reference) (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 3.3, 95% CI 1.2–9.2), while the risk of preterm birth among the reference was similar to the risk among women without epilepsy using folic acid periconceptionally (aOR 0.9, 95% CI 0.5–1.6). ASM-treated women with epilepsy starting folic acid after the first trimester had a higher risk compared with women without epilepsy with similar timing of folic acid (aOR 2.6, 95% CI 1.1–6.5), and even higher if not using folic acid (aOR 9.4, 95% CI 2.6–34.8). Folic acid was not associated with risk of preterm birth among women with epilepsy without ASM or among women without epilepsy. Folic acid was not associated with risk of preeclampsia or SGA among women with epilepsy.


In women with epilepsy using ASM, periconceptional folic acid was associated with a lower risk of preterm birth. This finding supports the recommendation that ASM-treated women with epilepsy of childbearing potential should use folic acid supplementation on a regular basis.

Classification of Evidence

This study provides Class III evidence that for women with epilepsy using ASM, periconceptional folic acid supplementation decreases the risk of preterm birth.

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