Generally speaking, women with epilepsy should not let their condition stop them from planning a family, according to doctors and epilepsy researchers.
A brochure recently released by the Epilepsy Foundation, entitled “Pregnancy & Epilepsy: Information for Women,” has the answers to this situation’s most frequently asked questions. It also contains many suggestions for ensuring the health of one’s baby.
Recent studies have shown that more than 90 percent of women with epilepsy give birth to normal, healthy babies. According to doctors and epilepsy researchers, that percentage might be even higher if the pregnancy is planned in advance with the help of a neurologist, and then accompanied by early and ongoing prenatal care. For instance, the brochure informs prospective parents that their chances of birthing a perfectly healthy baby are increased if they do not smoke, drink, do drugs, get inadequate amounts of sleep, have poor nutrition, or do not take antiepileptic medication as prescribed.
Taking antiepileptic drugs while pregnant is what worries women with epilepsy most. The most frequently asked question regarding this topic, which is addressed in the Epilepsy Foundation’s brochure, is, “If I become pregnant, shouldn’t I discontinue my antiepileptic medications?” Doctors answer this question in the brochure with a resounding “no.” A neurologist should only make changes in a person’s medications; otherwise it is dangerous for both the mother and the baby.
Some other information that’s included in the brochure is the effect of birth control pills on seizure control, whether seizures are caused by a woman’s menstrual cycle, tips for how to ensure the safety of one’s baby, and whether or not it’s safe to breast feed a newborn. The brochure’s information is broken up into the following subject headings: birth control, seizures, antiepileptic drug therapy, birth defects (malformations), complications of pregnancy, complications for the baby, and breast feeding.
The release of this brochure is part of the Epilepsy Foundation’s Women and Epilepsy Initiative. More detailed information on women’s issues can be found under the Epilepsy Foundation’s website headings: “Ask the Expert: Pregnancy Issues” and “Women and Epilepsy.” Single copies of this brochure can be obtained by calling (800) 332-1000 or by contacting one of our affiliates directly.