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Research Portfolio


How safe are anti-seizure medicines used in pregnancy?



grant amount:

£173,841 over 30 months, awarded in 2023

lead investigator:

Dr Anita McGrogan


- Dr Rachel Charlton (University of Bath)
- Dr Rebecca Bromley (University of Manchester)
- Professor Marte-Helene Bjørk (University of Bergen and Haukeland University Hospital)


University of Bath


Tragically, women with epilepsy are ten times more likely to die in pregnancy than those without the condition, and seizures are the most common cause of death in childbirth. Moreover, the safety of newer medications used to treat seizures in pregnant women with epilepsy is uncertain. Women with epilepsy need to know more about medication safety when balancing benefits of treating and preventing seizures with potential risks to their unborn child. However, studying medication safety in pregnancy is complicated: large groups of women and their children are needed to capture rare events, such as major malformations, and children need to be followed up as they develop over time.

"Women with epilepsy need to know more about medication safety when balancing benefits of treating and preventing seizures with risks to their unborn child. Ultimately this research will lead to safer pregnancies and healthier outcomes for babies and children born to women with epilepsy.

The Study

By using data collected through routine healthcare appointments attended by women, these challenges can be addressed. This study will use routinely collected healthcare data and will include around 40,000 women with an antiseizure medication prescribed just before or during pregnancy. We will also have a group who do not have an epilepsy diagnosis or an antiseizure medication prescribed during pregnancyWe will use information recorded about their pregnancy management, including medications prescribed, and we will find out whether their pregnancy ended with a loss or a livebirth. We will link the records of the mothers to their children to allow us to collect information about their development and whether they receive any diagnoses. Outcomes in the children will be compared between those whose mothers used different antiseizure medications and combinations of these during pregnancy and those who did not.


This work will improve the care of women with epilepsy in their childbearing years by providing the information both women and their doctors need to make pregnancy as safe as possible for both the mother and the child.