Key issues

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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. By taking the higher dose tablet of folic acid 5 milligrams (5mg) as prescribed by your doctor (it cannot be acquired over the counter) prior to conception you may reduce the risks of neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

Note that folic acid is not effective in reducing the risk of neural tube defects when taken after conception. Once pregnant, folic acid should be continued for a minimum of 14 weeks and started again (if it has been stopped) immediately after pregnancy.

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 diary (or use the Epilepsy Ireland app) recording both your seizures and your menstrual cycle. If you have any concerns regarding your cycle you should discuss them with your GP.

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 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.