March 30, 2021

Valproate Usage in Pregnancy: An Audit From the Kerala Registry of Epilepsy and Pregnancy

Summary, originally published in Epilepsia

Objective: This is an audit of the use of valproate (VPA) during pregnancy in women with epilepsy (WWE).

Methods: We identified all pregnancies exposed to VPA in the Kerala Registry of Epilepsy and Pregnancy between January 2010 and December 2019. Subjects’ past usage of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), seizure count before and during pregnancy, fetal outcome, and major congenital malformations (MCMs) were abstracted from the registry records. The presumed reason for usage of VPA was deducted from the clinical records.

Results: There were 221 pregnancies (17.75%) exposed to VPA (monotherapy, n = 149) during the audit period. The MCM rate for the completed pregnancies exposed to VPA was higher (n = 20, 10.36%) than that of VPA?unexposed pregnancies (n = 39, 4.96%). The relative risk for MCM with VPA exposure was 2.1 (95% confidence interval = 1.24–3.48, number needed to treat with VPA to result in MCM = 19). Reasons for using VPA during pregnancy (some women had more than one reason) were (1) VPA was the first AED prescribed and was effective (68, 29.06%), (2) other AEDs were ineffective (128, 54.70%), and (3) other AEDs were discontinued due to adverse effects (17, 7.28%). Other reasons (21, 8.97%) were (1) VPA was selected after the epilepsy classification was revised (3, 1.28%), (2) other AEDs were expensive (2, .85%), and (3) patient switched to VPA from other AEDs for unspecified reason (16, 6.83%). VPA was discontinued during pregnancy for 6 (2.71%) persons. Less than 10% of women were tried on lamotrigine or levetiracetam before switching to VPA.

Significance: Nine major congenital malformations per thousand pregnancies can be avoided if valproate is not used in women with epilepsy. Safe and effective antiepileptic drugs as alternatives to valproate are the need of the hour. Professional bodies and regulatory authorities need to implement updated guidelines on antiepileptic drug usage in girls and women.

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