What To Do if You Have Epilepsy and Want To Have a Baby

While epilepsy does increase fertility disorders in women, they are not insurmountable, thanks to newer antiepileptic drugs in well-administered doses. With some planning and close medical monitoring, women with epilepsy have every reason to expect a successful pregnancy and a healthy baby.

In the United States, 20,000 women with epilepsy are born each year. Obviously, epilepsy will not prevent you from getting pregnant. In fact, women with and without epilepsy are exactly as likely to become pregnant. Certain antiseizure medicines can interfere with birth control pills designed to prevent ovulation—possibly leading to unwanted pregnancy. That's why your doctor may recommend that you and your partner use both methods of birth control while making sure your body is ready for a successful pregnancy.

get your body ready

When you decide to start a family, you may wonder if your baby will inherit your epilepsy. If you have a genetic component to epilepsy (not everyone does), the answer is yes, but even then the risk is low. This is because in most cases, the baby must inherit several abnormal genes, each of which increases the risk of seizures by a small amount. Genetic counseling for you and your partner will help determine your exact risk – knowing, of course, that epilepsy is a well-managed condition in most cases.

So, if you want to have a baby, your diagnosis shouldn't stop you. But it does mean that you need to prepare your body for the nine-month journey ahead. Specifically, you must:

  • Work with your epileptologist/neurologist seizure control
  • If your drug is not, switch to an antiepileptic drug suitable for pregnancy
  • Let your doctor know you plan to become pregnant
  • Start taking folic acid to reduce the risk of birth defects

before pregnancy

The most important thing you can do to ensure a healthy pregnancy is to take the right medicines in the right doses to control seizures, which can be dangerous for you and your unborn baby. Any seizure carries a risk of falls or burns, while grand mal seizures (tonic-clonic seizures) can cut off oxygen to the fetus and can even lead to premature labor or miscarriage.

Controlling seizures means finding effective medications in effective doses. Some older antiepileptic drugs — including valproic acid and phenytoin — have been linked to a higher risk of birth defects, but with more than 40 antiepileptic drugs on the market now, doctors can find an effective, Alternatives suitable for pregnancy Fertility age.

You should work with your doctor to find the medication that is best for you and to determine your baseline—this is the optimal dose for effective seizure control at your current weight before pregnancy.

Your baseline antiepileptic drug levels are important because you will gain weight throughout your pregnancy and your doctor will need to adjust your dose to keep the drugs at therapeutic levels. You should expect to see your neurologist/epileptic at least once a month during pregnancy for critical monitoring.

Once your seizures are under control, let your doctor know you're planning to become pregnant and start taking folic acid, which promotes cell growth and maturation in red blood cells. Whether you have epilepsy or not, your baby needs folic acid to develop his brain and spinal cord. You need this supplement because some antiepileptic drugs can lower blood levels of folate, and a folate deficiency can increase your risk of serious birth defects.

pregnancy period

Everyone's body responds differently to pregnancy, but most women with epilepsy experience no change or even a decrease in seizure frequency during pregnancy. However, 15% to 30% experience more seizures, especially during the first and third trimesters.

You can help reduce seizures by getting enough sleep and working with your doctor to keep your antiseizure medications at therapeutic levels in your changing body.

labor and childbirth

Most women with epilepsy have a normal labor and a healthy baby, but for 2% to 4% of women, the stress of labor can trigger a seizure, and the risk can last up to 24 years after delivery. lasts for hours. Because of this, most pregnant women with epilepsy should deliver in a hospital to ensure quick access to medications and procedures to protect mother and baby if needed.


Breast milk has important benefits for newborns, and there is no reason to breastfeed while taking antiepileptic drugs. In fact, one study found that breastfed children showed higher IQs and better language skills at age 6 if their mothers took antiepileptic drugs.

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