How Pregnancy Affects Epilepsy

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Pregnancy affects every woman differently. Some get morning sickness. Some experience swelling of their feet or faces. Still, others sail through pregnancy as if they weren’t carrying an extra 35 pounds around with them. For women who have epilepsy, pregnancy can bring unique changes and complications.

Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes repeated seizures. More than 3 million adults in the United States experience seizures. In addition to seizures, epilepsy may cause headaches, dizziness, fainting, and memory loss. While many women who become pregnant don’t have problems during their pregnancy, there are risks involved. 

In step with National Epilepsy Awareness Month, the specialists at Panda Neurology & Atlanta Headache Specialists want to share important information about how epilepsy affects pregnancy. Knowing how to prepare for your pregnancy and what changes to expect if you have epilepsy can help you manage the risks.

How to prepare for getting pregnant

Up to half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, but if you have epilepsy, it’s best to plan for your pregnancy by first meeting with a neurologist and other members of your health care team. Your neurologist reviews your seizure medications and may modify your medication plan. You’re also advised to start taking prenatal vitamins and folic acid in advance of your pregnancy.

Folic acid is an important supplement for all pregnant women, not just those with epilepsy, to reduce risks of certain birth defects. However, anticonvulsant medications can interfere with the absorption of folic acid, so it may be necessary to take an increased amount starting a few months before you get pregnant.

Possible complications for women with epilepsy

Your doctor also reviews the potential risks and complications that can occur during pregnancy for women with epilepsy. If you should have a seizure, these complications could include:

Therefore, it’s essential to continue to take your epilepsy medication during your pregnancy. But it’s important to understand that anticonvulsant medications may increase your risk of having a baby with a birth defect. 

However, the vast majority of babies born to women with epilepsy are healthy without birth defects. Over 90% of women with epilepsy who become pregnant have healthy babies

Epilepsy changes during pregnancy

In some cases, women with epilepsy have increased episodes of seizures because of the fluctuation of hormones. Some have fewer episodes, and others don’t see a change in frequency. 

Your body’s normal rate of medication absorption may be compromised with pregnancy, and as a result, your neurologist may have to modify your doses. Additionally, if you experience morning sickness, you may throw up your medication before it can do its work. 

You will need to see your neurologist and OBGYN more frequently when you’re pregnant to monitor the health of you and your baby, as well as your medication levels. The same advice that goes to pregnant women without epilepsy applies to women with epilepsy: 

For more information on planning for pregnancy and safely managing your pregnancy if you have epilepsy, reach out to the experts at Panda Neurology & Atlanta Headache Specialists. 

Schedule a consultation by calling 678-705-7341, or you can request an appointment using the online booking feature. You can also send the team a message here on the website.


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