Epilepsy Triggers Causes Pregnancy

Until fairly recently, women with epilepsy were discouraged from having children. Today, according to the Epilepsy Foundation of America®, over 90 percent of women with epilepsy give birth to healthy babies. Nevertheless, there are still some important issues to consider if you suffer from epilepsy and you’re thinking of having a baby.

Getting Pregnant with Epilepsy

Women with epilepsy experience a higher incidence of some reproductive disorders, such as:

  • Early menopause
  • Menstrual cycle irregularities
  • Polycystic ovaries.

Such disorders can make it more difficult to conceive. Anticonvulsant medications may also be partly responsible for these problems.

Seizures During Pregnancy

Most women do not experience any change in their seizure type or frequency during pregnancy. According to the Epilepsy Foundation of America®, only about 25 to 30 percent of women experience a greater frequency of seizures during pregnancy. This could be the result of changing hormone levels or a reduction in the effectiveness of antiepileptic medication as blood volume increases.

Although the vast majority of women with epilepsy deliver healthy babies, seizures during pregnancy can be hazardous to an unborn child, due to falls and other complications. Generalized tonic-clonic seizures during pregnancy can induce premature labor or a miscarriage, but this is very rare. Seizures during labor are rare, and most women deliver their babies safely.

Additional Complications Related to Epilepsy and Pregnancy

Most women with epilepsy do not experience any more pregnancy complications than women without epilepsy. Nevertheless, it’s important to be aware that the risk of some disorders is higher among women with epilepsy. These include:

  • Acute morning sickness
  • Anemia
  • Placental abruption (premature separation of the placenta from the uterine wall)
  • Pre-eclampsia (includes pregnancy-induced hypertension)
  • Premature birth
  • Vaginal bleeding both during and after pregnancy.

Medication, Epilepsy and Pregnancy

While there are concerns associated with any medications taken during pregnancy, the majority of women can continue taking antiepileptic medication throughout their pregnancy with no harm to their babies. The Epilepsy Foundation of America® estimates that only 4 to 8 percent of women who take seizure medication are at risk of giving birth to babies with birth defects (compared to 2 to 3 percent for the general population).

Preparing for Pregnancy

If you’re planning to get pregnant, and you have epilepsy, it’s important to talk to your doctor. He may want to adjust your medication in preparation for your pregnancy. Aside from any special physician instructions, all the same rules of a healthy pregnancy apply for a woman with epilepsy. These include:

  • Controlling your stress level
  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • Eliminating alcohol, caffeine, and non-prescription drugs.
  • Exercising everyday
  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Making sure your seizures are under control
  • Taking prenatal vitamins, including folic acid, several months before conception.

Resources

Epilepsy Action Staff. (n.d.). Women. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from http://www.epilepsy.org.au/women2.asp

Epilepsy.com Staff. (n.d.). Pregnancy and motherhood. Retrieved March 18, 2010, from http://www.epilepsy.com/info/women_pregnancy

Epilepsy Ontario Staff. (n.d.). Epilepsy during pregnancy. Retrieved March 18, 2010, from http://www.epilepsyontario.org/client/EO/EOWeb.nsf/web/Pregnancy planning

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2008). Epilepsy and pregnancy: What you need to know. Retrieved March 18, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pregnancy/PR00123

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Staff. (n.d.) Seizures and epilepsy: Hope through research. Retrieved March 11, 2010, from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/epilepsy/epilepsy.htm

The Epilepsy Foundation of America® Staff. (n.d.) Parenting concerns for the mother with epilepsy. Retrieved March 18, 2010, from http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/living/women/pregnancy/weiparenting.cfm

The Epilepsy Foundation of America® Staff. (n.d.) Pregnancy and epilepsy medications. Retrieved March 18, 2010, from http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/living/women/pregnancy/weimedications.cfm

The Epilepsy Foundation of America® Staff. (n.d.) Pregnancy issues. Retrieved March 18, 2010, from http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/living/women/pregnancy/weipregnancy.cfm