A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Summer, 2022 | Number 3, Volume 36

Anticonvulsant drugs linked to increased odds of ASD, ID in kids

Prenatal exposure to the anticonvulsant drugs topiramate or valproate may increase the odds of a child having autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or intellectual disability (ID), according to a new study. The study also found that prenatal exposure to certain combinations of anticonvulsant drugs may increase children’s odds of having neurodevelopmental disorders. 

Marte-Helene Bjørk and colleagues analyzed data on 4,494,926 children. The researchers found that for ASD and ID, the adjusted hazard ratios were 2.8 and 3.5, respectively, after topiramate exposure and 2.4 and 2.5, respectively, after valproate exposure. Risks increased with higher doses of antiseizure medications. 

In addition, an increased risk for neurodevelopmental disorders was seen in children of women with epilepsy who took combined levetiracetam and carbamazepine or combined lamotrigine and topiramate. However, the researchers say, “no consistently increased risks were observed for neurodevelopmental disorders after prenatal exposure to monotherapy with lamotrigine, levetiracetam, carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine, gapapentin, pregabalin, clonazepam, or phenobarbital.” They also detected no increased risks for children of mothers who took a combination of levetiracetam and lamotrigine. 

They conclude, “The most important findings were robust and dose-dependent associations between prenatal topiramate and valproate exposure and neurodevelopmental disorders. These associations persisted after accounting for potential confounding factors.” 


Association of prenatal exposure to antiseizure medication with risk of autism and intellectual disability,” Marte-Helene Bjørk, Helga Zoega, Maarit K. Leinonen, Jacqueline M. Cohen, Julie Werenberg Dreier, Kari Furu, Nils Erik Gilhus, Mika Gissler, Óskar Hálfdánarson, Jannicke Igland, Yuelian Sun, Torbjörn Tomson, Silje Alvestad, and Jakob Christensen, JAMA Neurology, May 31, 2022 (online). Address: Marte-Helene Bjørk, Helse Bergen, Haukeland University Hospital, Department of Neurology, Postbox 1400, N-5020 Bergen, Norway, [email protected]


“Prenatal exposure to certain antiseizure meds linked to autism,” news release, Medical Xpress, May 21, 2022