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Key issues

woman nursing her stomach.

The following section of our website outlines some key issues which are important for women with epilepsy to be aware of. 

Folic Acid 

If you are a woman of childbearing potential and have been diagnosed with epilepsy, it is important to be made aware of the potential benefits of taking folic acid. There is clear evidence that folic acid supplementation is of benefit in preventing neural tube defects, and it is recommended that all women of child bearing age should take a 400mcg folic acid supplement daily, even if they are not planning to get pregnant. Ideally one should take folic acid for at least 14 weeks before the start of pregnancy and continue to take folic acid for at least the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

There is also evidence that for women with epilepsy,  that folic acid supplementation has cognitive benefits in their offspring, although the optimum dose related to this benefit is unclear. If you are considering a pregnancy please speak to your epilepsy team to discuss the best dose of folic acid for you.

Further information on the importance of Folic Acid can be found by visiting the HSE website. 

Epilepsy and periods 

Your period is individual to you; some women have regular cycles occurring at the same time every month while others have irregular cycles or none at all. Having epilepsy can affect your menstrual cycle; women with frequent seizures tend to have irregular periods. Irregular periods can be caused by having seizures and in some cases by epilepsy medicines. It is advisable to keep a strict seizure and menstrual diary recording both your seizures and your menstrual cycle. If you have any concerns regarding your cycle you should discuss them with your GP/ Neurologist/ epilepsy nurse specialist. Templates for monthly/weekly seizure diaries can be found by visiting the 'Lifestyle & Triggers' section of our website; while the Epilepsy Ireland app may also assist in recording seizures. You can download the app by visiting the 'Our Local Services' section of our website.

Catamenial Epilepsy

Catamenial seizures refer to an increase in seizures around the time of menstruation, either just before or during the first few days of the period. It is caused by the hormonal changes that affect women each month. These changes can occur at the start of a period, during ovulation (around the middle of your menstrual cycle), or in the week before a period.

If you think that your seizures are worse around certain times of the month you should keep a strict epilepsy diary and menstrual diary for at least three months to see if there is any relationship between your epilepsy and your period; you should discuss this with your neurologist or epilepsy nurse specialist.

Sexual Health

Some women have spoken about their worries about having a seizure during sex. This is in fact rare. But if you notice an increase in seizures relating to sex, it’s worth talking to your doctor/epilepsy nurse. Any woman can have problems with sex from time to time. These can include problems getting aroused, having an orgasm, or having little interest in sex. These are some common causes of sexual problems that can affect anyone, which include:

  • Stress
  • Illness
  • Tiredness
  • Alcohol

If you have epilepsy and are having sexual problems these could also be related to:

  • Your Anti Seizure Medication
  • Anxiety about your seizures
  • The way your seizures affect your hormones

If you have any concerns about your sex life, it’s worth talking to your family doctor. They can look for physical or other possible causes of your problems. If they think the problems relate to how you are feeling, they may be able to refer you for talking therapies such as counselling or cognitive behaviour therapy.