Story by: Sara Thompson on April 22, 2021
If you have epilepsy, but are thinking of getting pregnant, you may have questions about how epilepsy affects pregnancy or a fetus. Epilepsy affects each person differently, based on medication, hormones, and other factors. Here are some things to know if you have epilepsy and want to have a baby.
Epilepsy is an umbrella term for a group of seizure disorders. A brain condition, epilepsy is sometimes the result of a brain injury or a family predisposition, but often there is no known cause.
Most women with epilepsy have normal, healthy babies. However, there are several factors that may make it more difficult to conceive including:
Talk with your doctor about the medications you are taking for your epilepsy. Some drugs used to treat seizures may contribute to infertility, but some may reduce the effectiveness of hormonal birth control methods such as the pill. Take care of your general health with a balanced diet and exercise, as directed by your doctor.
Any medication taken during pregnancy can affect the baby. Anti-seizure medication has been linked to birth defects, including cleft palate, neural tube defects, skeletal abnormality and congenital heart defects. Some studies suggest that the risk increases with higher doses of medication or when taking multiple anti-seizure medications.
Seizures during pregnancy can result in:
Talk to your doctor about changing medications if you wish to become pregnant. Try to do it at least a year in advance so you have time to let your body adjust and see if the new medicine works well for you.
The most important thing is to work closely with your doctor and care team before and during pregnancy so you can minimize potential risks to your health and the health of your baby.
During labor and delivery, you may be afraid of having a seizure. While it is a possibility, the doctor will be aware of your condition and can give you IV anti-seizure medication. Or you may have a planned cesarean section (C-section).
The risks of pregnancy with epilepsy may sound overwhelming, but remember that the vast majority of women with epilepsy have uneventful pregnancies and normal, healthy babies. It is important to know the risks, follow your doctors’ guidelines and take care of yourself.
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