/ by Zabeen Mahuwala, MD
Women often require specialized healthcare unique to their needs. This is especially true if they have been diagnosed with epilepsy.
If you’re a woman with epilepsy and of childbearing age, you should know that fertility and pregnancy may pose some challenges for you.
Before you try to start a family – or even if you want to wait – here is what you should know about how fertility, pregnancy and epilepsy intersect.
Can I still get pregnant if I have epilepsy? Is it safe for me to get pregnant?
It is still possible for you to conceive if you have epilepsy. With careful monitoring by your doctor, you can have a safe pregnancy and healthy baby.
How does epilepsy affect my baby?
It’s important to talk to your doctor before you try to get pregnant so that you can choose the safest medicine and dosage for seizure control.
There is a low chance that your baby will have a birth defect. Because your anti-seizure drugs may interfere with your folate levels, your doctor may recommend that you take folic acid supplements.
Your doctor may also recommend that you be cared for by a high-risk OB-GYN, and both your doctor and your OB-GYN will watch you carefully throughout your entire pregnancy.
Is it possible to have a seizure during pregnancy and postpartum?
During pregnancy, your drug levels may become lower due to fluid shifts. Your doctor can monitor those closely and make sure that you are getting enough anti-seizure medicine. You may choose to have a normal delivery with epilepsy.
Your chances of having seizures can increase in the postpartum period due to lack of sleep and changes in hormones.
Can I breastfeed while on my medications?
Most women are still able to breastfeed their babies. Sometimes, some medications may appear in your breast milk and may make your baby sleepy, but that is normal.
I’m not trying to become pregnant. Is my birth control still effective?
When taken in conjunction with some anti-seizure drugs, some methods of contraception, including birth control pills, contraceptive patches and implants and the morning after pill, may be less effective.
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) and intrauterine systems (IUSs) are typically not affected by anti-epileptic drugs.
Talk to your doctor to find out what combination of anti-epileptic drug and contraception is best for you and your family-planning needs.