Prenatal Valproate Exposure Linked with ADHD Diagnosis in Children


Children who were exposed to anti-seizure drug valproate in utero were 48% more likely to develop ADHD, according to a new study. The researchers were led by Jakob Christensen, MD, PhD, Dr Med Sci, at Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark. The study was published in JAMA Network Open.

“[Valproate’s] use in pregnancy is associated with increased risks of congenital malformations and adverse neurodevelopment in the offspring,” according to Christensen, including an increased risk of autism. However, the researchers wanted to find out if it also increased the likelihood of children receiving the ADHD diagnosis.

The study followed children in Denmark since their health records are easily obtained by researchers. The data on 913,302 children was analyzed. Of the 580 who were exposed to valproate in utero, 49 eventually were diagnosed with ADHD (8.4%). Of the children who were not exposed to valproate, only 3.2% received an ADHD diagnosis.

The researchers found that children who were exposed to other anti-seizure drugs did not suffer the same risk—only valproate appeared to increase the risk of ADHD diagnosis.

The researchers controlled for a number of variables, including maternal smoking, mothers’ ADHD, and children with epilepsy. In all cases, their results held strongly.

Valproate is already contraindicated in pregnancy due to risks of autism and congenital disorders. This study adds that ADHD is another risk, further solidifying the dangers of the drug.



Christensen, J.  Pedersen, L. H., Sun, Y., Dreier, J. W., Brikell, I., & Dalsgaard, S. (2019). Association of prenatal exposure to valproate and other antiepileptic drugs with risk for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in offspring. JAMA Network Open, 2(1), e186606. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.6606 (Link)


  1. “The Government wishes to express its sincere regret and deep sympathy for the injury and suffering endured by all those affected when expectant mothers took the drug thalidomide between 1958 and 1961,” he told the House of Commons.

    The one rare case they apologized it took 50 years. All the stories on this website the crimes of psychiatry and pharma ever once hear they said say sorry ??

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  2. My son was diagnosed with a developmental disability (“high functioning autism”) as a young child after I used Phenergan (Promethazine, an antihistamine) for severe morning sickness (Hyperemesis Gravidarum – HG) from month 2 through month 7 of my pregnancy. Although I was reassured that it was safe and the benefit outweighed the risk to my baby, I only used half the prescribed dose.

    I have come to believe that individuals diagnosed with developmental challenges such as ADHD and autism include a group of people who have had some type of brain/neurological damage that could have resulted from multiple causes including but not limited to drugs the mother took in pregnancy such as SSRIs or Valproate (or before pregnancy) and other neuro-toxins that she had in her body. I think that there is more than enough evidence that this is true, but our FDA and drug industry does not properly do the research, share the information and protect us from what should be known and forbidden. There were other options to treat the HG (that were not offered to me with my first son), that I used with my two subsequent children, such as home rest and an IV to stay hydrated through the HG.

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    • I agree that this is often the case. Unfortunately, due to the sketchy way these “diagnoses” are made, it’s unlikely that one cause can possibly be identified for any of these “disorders.” But we most definitely should be looking at prenatal pharmaceutical exposure. We know that street drug exposure does damage to the growing embryo/fetus – why would pharmaceuticals be any different?

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