Epilepsy and Pregnancy
Epilepsy is a group of disorders characterized by recurrent , unpredictable seizures. Pregnant women who have epilepsy have a higher risk of pregnancy related complications. Epilepsy affects pregnant women differently. Some women experience less seizures during pregnancy.
What are the symptoms of epilepsy during pregnancy ?
The symptoms of epilepsy during pregnancy are similar to pregnancy symptoms and include the following :
- memory loss
- changes in energy level and mood
How will epilepsy affect my pregnancy ?
The National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke (NINDS) predicts that about one-third to about half of the women who have epilepsy will have more seizures during pregnancy. This is because anticonvulsants medications work differently during pregnancy and as a result your doctor may have to change your medication. Nausea during pregnancy can cause medication to be thrown up before it can be absorbed properly in the body.
Does epilepsy during pregnancy affect my baby ?
Seizures experienced during epilepsy can increase your chances for complications. The risk of partial or absent seizures to the baby is minimal. However, tonic-clonic (grand mal) form of seizure increases risk of injury to mother and baby. This form of seizure also causes temporary breathing interruption which may lead to oxygen deprivation in the baby even though it usually has no effect on the mother. Heart rate is also slow for about 30 minutes after a tonic-clonic seizure. During the last trimester when the baby’s brain is large and need more oxygen , tonic-clonic seizure poses the greatest risk.
What complications are associated with epilepsy during pregnancy ?
Some of the complications you may encounter include :
- fetal injury
- preterm labor
- deceleration in fetal heart rate
- premature separation of placenta from the uterus
- premature birth
What is the effect of anticonvulsant medications on my pregnancy ?
Women who are epileptic and trying to conceive have an increased chance of having babies with birth defects. These include birth defects such as small fingers or toes or major once such as spina bifida. If you are taking anticonvulsant medications and trying to get pregnant, you need to consult your doctor. He may recommend changing your medication or reducing the dosage. DO NOT stop taking any medication you are on without consulting your doctor first.
What steps can I take to ensure I have a healthy pregnancy ?
Preconception appointment is very important. Your doctor will review your medical history and check all medications you are taking. He may change your medications if necessary.
You can also ask your doctor about taking folic acid before and during pregnancy to reduce your baby’s risk of neural tube defect.
Due to the stress associated with labor and delivery, women with epilepsy are more likely to have more seizures following the first couple of days after delivery.
Women who are epileptic are advised to breastfeed because of the benefits of breastfeeding to the baby. However you need to talk about your doctor about the benefits of breastfeeding against the mother’s use of anticonvulsant medications.
Epilepsy and pregnancy. Epilepsy Foundation. http://www.epilepsy.com/information/women/epilepsy-and-pregnancy. Accessed October 22, 2014
Epilepsy and pregnancy.American Academy of Family Physicians . http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/epilepsy/epilepsy-and-pregnancy.html. Accessed October 22, 2014