Epilepsy Triggers Causes Menstruation

According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, an estimated 30 to 50 percent of women with epilepsy experience a greater frequency of seizures just before their menstrual period starts. “Catamenial epilepsy” is the term used to describe the tendency for seizures linked to the menstrual cycle. Epilepsy in women can result in a greater frequency of seizures during ovulation or before or during menstruation.

Hormones, Epilepsy and Your Menstrual Cycle

Such seizures in women with epilepsy are most likely linked to the hormonal changes that occur at different times throughout the menstrual cycle. Hormones don’t cause epilepsy in women, but they do influence the incidence of seizures.

The brain’s neurons (nerve cells) are affected by the female reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen tends to excite the neurons, while progesterone has a more inhibitory effect. During ovulation and before menstruation, the neurons that are already excited by high estrogen levels are more likely to produce a seizure.

An increased frequency of seizures in epileptic women could be the result of:

  • A decrease in the amount of antiepileptic drug in your blood before menstruation
  • An imbalance between estrogen and progesterone
  • Increased estrogen levels linked to your menstrual cycle.

For some women with epilepsy, menstrual cycle disorders can also be a problem. Some women with epilepsy have experienced:

  • Amenorrhea (no menstrual period)
  • Irregular periods
  • Oligomenorrhea (infrequent or extremely light menstrual bleeding).

In addition, antiepileptic medication can exacerbate hormone-induced mood swings, or PMS.

Epilepsy in Women with Menopause

During menopause, the amount of a woman’s reproductive hormones decreases. As a result, women with epilepsy may experience changes in seizure patterns. These changes can be very unpredictable, due to the fact that both estrogen and progesterone levels are decreasing at unsteady rates during menopause. Some women may experience fewer seizures, some may experience more seizures, and some may have no change in seizure patterns at all.

Treatment Options for Women with Epilepsy

It’s important to keep track of seizure patterns related to epilepsy and your menstrual cycle. This information is important in order for your physician to select the most appropriate treatment for you. It may be necessary to make alterations to your treatment plan to account for seizures related to your menstrual cycle. Possible treatment options for women with catamenial epilepsy include:

  • Taking an additional antiepileptic drug prior to menstruation
  • Taking an increased dosage of your anticonvulsant medication just prior to menstruation
  • Using hormone therapy (the effectiveness and safety of this method still requires further testing).


Epilepsy.com Staff. (n.d.). Menstrual cycle. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from http://www.epilepsy.com/EPILEPSY/provoke_menstrual

Epilepsy Ontario Staff. (n.d.). Women and epilepsy. Retrieved March 17, 201, from http://www.epilepsyontario.org/client/EO/EOWeb.nsf/web/Women