Pregnant Women with Epilepsy

Most pregnant women with epilepsy have a normal pregnancy and childbirth. Being pregnant does not usually make epilepsy any better or worse. However, for women with epilepsy, the risk of complications during pregnancy and labor is higher than for women without epilepsy. The small increase in risk is due to the small risk of harm coming to a baby if you have a serious seizure whilst pregnant, and the small risk of harm to an unborn baby from anti–epilepsy medicines (discussed further below).

Therefore, before becoming pregnant, it is best to seek advice from a doctor, epilepsy nurse, or counsellor. The potential risks can be discussed. Some of the points are briefly mentioned below.

Before becoming pregnant
Most of the advice is the same as for any other woman. (This is discussed in a separate leaflet called ‘Planning to Become Pregnant?’. For example, advice on diet, smoking, alcohol, avoiding infection, etc.) The additional issues that relate to women with epilepsy include Risk from seizures occurring during pregnancy
The risk of having a seizure is much the same during pregnancy as when you are not pregnant.

Risk from anti–epilepsy medicines
If you take anti–epilepsy medication when you are pregnant, you have a small increased risk of having a baby with a birth defect. The most common birth defects that occur are neural tube defects (such as spina bifida), facial defects, congenital heart defects, and hypospadias (a defect of the penis). Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding for most women taking anti–epilepsy medication is generally safe.

Maternal illness during pregnancy
Injury or illness to an expectant mother can affect the developing brain in the fetus during pregnancy. Heredity. Researchers are continually examining the role of heredity and genetics in the development of seizure disorders. Besides the above causes, there are times when people find that certain incidents can trigger a seizure. This does not mean that it is the root cause of epilepsy. It might help to keep a diary and keep track of events, this may help show a pattern which may pinpoint an avoidable cause.