ADHD risk factors increase with prenatal valproate exposure

ADHD risk factors increase with prenatal valproate exposure
© iStock/vchal

According to Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark, valproate exposure during pregnancy is associated with increasing ADHD risk factors among offspring.

In a population-based study of 913,302 children in Denmark, prenatal valproate exposure was significantly associated with a 48% increase of ADHD risk factors compared with children with no valproate exposure. No association was identified for other antiepileptic drugs.

Published in JAMA Network, the findings of this study corroborate that counselling is appropriately required for the use of valproate in pregnancy and in women of childbearing potential.

The dangers of valproate exposure

Valproate is an antiepileptic drug (AED) used in the treatment of epilepsy and many other neurological and psychiatric disorders. Its use in pregnancy is associated with increased risks of congenital malformations and adverse neurodevelopment in the offspring and may be associated with increasing ADHD risk factors.

Now, recent studies have discovered that the use of the antiepileptic drug (AED) valproate during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among offspring.

Details of the study

Jakob Christensen, M.D., Ph.D., from Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, and colleagues collected data from all live-born singleton children in Denmark and followed them through 2015.

Data from the Danish National Prescription Registry provided information on prenatal exposure to AEDs. The authors determined ADHD diagnoses and corresponding ADHD risk factors from the Danish National Prescription Registry or the Danish Psychiatric Central Research Register.

The researchers found that 580 children were exposed to valproate during pregnancy and 8.4 percent of them had ADHD versus 3.2 percent of the 912,722 unexposed children. The risk for ADHD was increased by 48 percent with prenatal valproate exposure versus no exposure. In unexposed children, the absolute 15-year risk for ADHD was 4.6 percent versus 11.0 percent in children who were exposed to valproate in pregnancy. No associations were seen between other AEDs and ADHD.

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