Challenges of Mothers with Epilepsy

When a mother has epilepsy, she is challenged both personally by the disorder and also by her responsibilities as a parent. She must meet the needs of the child as well as maintain personal and possibly professional relationships (see our May feature: To gain more insight into the magnitude of the problems faced by mothers with epilepsy, here is a report from research conducted in the United Kingdom (UK).

Mothers with epilepsy
A team in the UK published the results of a study in a recent issue of the journal Seizure. Their study surveyed mothers with epilepsy about issues they faced while caring for a baby. The women were asked: Did you experience any problems with caring for your baby because you have epilepsy? Specific activities that were addressed were:

  • Outside activities such as shopping
  • Bathing the baby
  • Carrying/holding the baby
  • Attending a mother and toddler group
  • Pushing a baby/toddler in a stroller
  • Safety and feeding the baby
  • Breastfeeding
  • Obtaining a nursery place for their child/children
  • Obtaining a school place for their child/children

There were 84 women out of 120 who completed the survey. The researchers learned that all of the women experienced problems in each category, with the most problematic appearing to be outside activities. They also noted that "eighty women (95%) cared for the child alone during the day. Forty three (53%) had cared for the child alone at night."

The authors stated that "women with epilepsy do have problems when caring for their baby and sometimes it is severe, probably putting their baby at undue risk and/or restricting what activities they do with their baby."

Margaret Rawnsley, Research Administration Officer, said: "We are committed to featuring on-going educational projects that are beneficial to mothers and families. September 2008 is national pregnancy month here in the UK and to celebrate, Epilepsy Action ( is launching the second stage of its successful Mothers in Mind campaign. The aim is to ensure that women with epilepsy have access to preconception counselling, receive adequate healthcare before, during and after pregnancy and are aware of how to minimize any risks to their child during their seizures."

Margaret Rawnsley added: "As part of this September 2008 campaign, we will be offering the following support to women with epilepsy and parents:

  • A dedicated helpline advice service on epilepsy and pregnancy.
  • Interactive online diaries written by pregnant women with epilepsy, allowing for networking opportunities amongst women.
  • Online fact sheet aimed at parents with epilepsy, providing advice on how to best minimize risk to their child in the case of experiencing a seizure while caring for them.

She concluded: "We have also created a Summary Resource that provides information on epilepsy and women’s health. It also has practical advice on how parents can minimize seizure triggers and how they can reduce the risk of accidents to their child, should they have a seizure."

Epilepsy Action, UK provides information regarding "Caring for Your Baby or Toddler" from breast feeding, to dealing with exhaustion, and safety issues: To read more go to:

The study "Problems that mothers with epilepsy experience when caring for their children," Seizure (2008);7:42-4, was written by:

  • Jan Bagshaw, Heywood, Middleton & Rochdale Primary Care Trust, UK;
  • Pamela Crawford, York Hospital, UK; and
  • Brian Chappell, York Dist General Hospital, Dept. of Neuroscience, N Yorkshire, UK.

Submitted on July 29, 2008
Edited by Steven C. Schachter, MD

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