Nowhere is the problem more evident—or more complicated—than in pregnancy. In the United States, epilepsy affects nearly one million women of childbearing potential. Alarm bells should go off for women with epilepsy who become pregnant or who are trying to become pregnant. Nevertheless, most women with epilepsy can and do have normal pregnancies.

  • Some well-documented risks are associated with taking antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) while pregnant, but the answer usually is not to stop taking the medication.
  • Seizures in the mother can also cause risks to mom and baby. For instance, what if you had a seizure and fell and injured yourself?   A mother falling on her abdomen could injure the fetus. In addition, a generalized tonic clonic seizure may actually induce premature labor and a miscarriage.
  • Women with epilepsy should follow the traditional rules for having a healthy pregnancy. People who have the most successful pregnancies are the people who are healthiest when they're not pregnant.

What should women with epilepsy who are trying to get pregnant do?

  • Talk to your neurologist before you get pregnant so that you understand what the risks are.
  • Get their seizures under control.
  • Find the right medication in the right dose.
  • Try to get on just one medication if possible.
  • Take a vitamin supplement containing folic acid.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Be close to normal weight levels.
  • Eat a sensible and balanced diet.

 

Reviewed by: Joseph I. Sirven MD | Patricia O. Shafer RN MN | Kimford J. Meador MD on 3/2014
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