Valproate and folate: Congenital and developmental risks

Edward H. Reynolds, Ralph Green

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Increasing awareness of the congenital and developmental risks associated with the use of sodium valproate (VPA) has led to recent European guidelines designed to avoid the use of this drug in pregnancy if effective alternative treatments are available. In the general population, it is well established that periconceptual folic acid reduces the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs) and possibly other congenital abnormalities. We here review the evidence 1) that VPA interferes with one-carbon metabolism, including the transport of methylfolate into the brain and the placenta by targeting folate receptors; 2) that VPA effects on the folate metabolic system contribute to congenital and developmental problems associated with VPA exposure; and 3) that genetic factors, notably polymorphisms related to one-carbon metabolism, contribute to the vulnerability to these VPA-induced risks. Based on these facts, we propose that the standard periconceptual use of 400 μg of folic acid may not adequately protect against VPA or other antiepileptic drug (AED)-induced congenital or developmental risks. Pending definitive studies to determine appropriate dose, we recommend up to 5 mg of folic acid periconceptually in at-risk women with the caveat that the addition of supplementary vitamin B12 may also be prudent because vitamin B12 deficiency is common in pregnancy in some countries and is an additional risk factor for developmental abnormalities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107068
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Congenital
  • Development
  • Epilepsy
  • Folate
  • Risks
  • Valproate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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