Epilepsy care during pregnancy

11th December 2018

Whether you have made the decision to start trying for a baby or have an unplanned pregnancy, there are a few things that women with epilepsy should be aware of. Although most women who have epilepsy will have a healthy and natural pregnancy, there is a slightly higher risk of developmental issues and birth defects.

Medication concerns

First things first, before trying for a baby you should first speak with your GP or neurologist, they may want to change the dose of your medication or switch to a different medication altogether. If your pregnancy is unplanned, don’t worry, but you should visit a healthcare professional as soon as possible to review medication.

Some anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) carry a higher risk of birth defects and developmental issues than others. Sodium Valproate, for example, is well known to carry a high risk. You should have been made aware of this before being prescribed the medication and enrolled onto a ‘pregnancy prevention programme’. However, other medications also carry risk, so it’s better to be reviewed.

Please note: you MUST under no circumstances stop taking your medication during pregnancy unless advised to by your GP or neurologist.

The effect of pregnancy on your epilepsy

You may also wonder how being pregnant might affect your epilepsy. It’s incredibly hard to say as everyone reacts differently. Some women have noted an improvement, whilst others notice no change at all. However, the physical and emotional stress of being pregnant could also have a negative effect that increases the frequency and severity of your seizures.

Could the baby be at risk during seizures?

There’s absolutely no evidence to suggest that a baby can be harmed as a result of a myoclonic, focal (partial) or absence seizure. Of course, with a tonic-clonic seizure, there is an increased risk.

Care during pregnancy

In terms of healthcare, you will be provided with the same scans and care as any other pregnant woman. However, it’s also likely that you will need to visit the clinic more often and potentially have additional scans and blood tests to closely monitor for any developmental issues. Your medication levels may be closely monitored.

Like any pregnant woman, it’s also important that you relax and rest as much as possible. Especially during the latter stages of your pregnancy. Make sure you’re eating healthily and drinking plenty of water too.

National Epilepsy Training can help

For more information on pregnancy and epilepsy or to enquire about our care services, call us on 01706 373075 or email admin@nationalepilepsytraining.co.uk.