Frequently Asked Questions

Epilepsy and Pregnancy_1

28 January 2010
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Epilepsy and Pregnancy_1 by Sinead Murphy, Community Epilepsy Specialist Nurse first published in Epilepsy News Issue 23 - Autumn 2003

If you have epilepsy and are thinking of becoming pregnant here are some of the most frequently asked questions. The answers may help you, in consultation with your Neurologist to decide the best way to prepare yourself for pregnancy and caring for yourself.

Should I discuss my plans to get pregnant with my Neurologist?
Yes - it is very important to consult with your doctor prior to planning a pregnancy as during the discussion with your Neurologist he/she may decide to alter your anti seizure medication if needed and Folic Acid 5mg once a day will be started. If your doctor decides to alter your medication then reliable contraception should be used in this period and until adequate seizure control returns.

If I have epilepsy am I likely to have more problems conceiving?
Women with epilepsy sometimes find it harder to conceive because they are more likely to have irregular periods. This is because of an upset with the release of the hormone in the brain that controls the monthly cycle. However, if it is related to epilepsy medication then it may be easily treated.

Does my epilepsy pose a risk to the development or health of my unborn baby?
Unfortunately all pregnancies carry a certain amount of risk whether you have epilepsy or not. It is very important to discuss this issue with your Neurologist/Epilepsy nurse as soon as possible.

Should I continue to take my medication if I find that I am pregnant?
Yes - it is very important to continue to take your anti-seizure medication as prescribed. If you have not discussed the issue of getting pregnant then it is best to advise your doctor of your pregnancy as soon as possible and commence Folic acid 5mg.

Will my baby inherit my epilepsy?
It depends on what type of epilepsy you have. A few forms of epilepsy are inherited. It is best to check this with your neurologist.

Will my epilepsy get worse during my pregnancy?
Sometimes women tend to notice an increase in seizures in the beginning of their pregnancy, this is usually because of morning sickness; also towards the end of their pregnancy women may notice an increase in seizure activity (to include auras). Some women will have no change in their seizures, while other women will see an improvement in their seizure control. This is because the levels of the anti seizure medication may begin to drop, and you may need to increase your medication dose. If you are having any problems during your pregnancy it is best to discuss them with your doctor.

Is there further extra care I should receive during my pregnancy?
Some Neurologists suggest that women on certain anti seizure medication take a vitamin K supplement for the last 4 weeks of their pregnancy. It is best to discuss this with your Neurologist.

I have heard of the Pregnancy Register, what is it?
The Republic of Ireland Pregnancy register was launched in May 2001. The aims of this service were to:

  • Establish the relative safety of anti-epileptic drugs with reference to major malformations in the children of women with epilepsy
  • To establish whether seizure frequency is related to adverse outcome in pregnancy
  • To monitor the rate of pre-conceptual folic acid administration in women with epilepsy and whether this beneficially affects the outcome
  • To educate individuals about epilepsy and pregnancy, by giving preconception, pregnancy and post pregnancy advice

To register your pregnancy in confidence, please contact the Epilepsy and Pregnancy Register at freephone: 1800 320 820

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