We discuss how to manage epilepsy in pregnancy. Dr Shazia Malik, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at The Portland Hospital, part of HCA Healthcare UK, says:
Epilepsy is a fairly common condition, affecting around 600,000 people in the UK and its main feature is seizures. If you are considering getting pregnant, you should continue to take contraceptive measures until you have fully discussed your plans with your medical team, as you’ll need to prepare your body and discuss medication. Some types of anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) are harmful to a foetus, so you may need to change your medication when you want to conceive and while pregnant.
Epilepsy affects different women in different ways while pregnant; some find that their condition improves somewhat while others see no change. However, the stress and worry associated with some pregnancies may cause more seizures for some women, so it’s important to keep a close eye on your treatment and reduce your risk of having seizures, which could put your baby at risk if you were to have a bad fall. Additionally, some AEDs have been shown to increase the risk to your baby of defects like spina bifida, cleft lip and heart problems. Your baby may also have learning difficulties.
Once pregnant, you’ll have a different regime of drugs to control your seizures and you’ll be closely monitored. You will need to give birth in a unit that has Obstetrician care, so unfortunately home birth and midwifery-led units are out for you.
You should take the higher dose of folic acid (five milligrams as opposed to the usual dose of 400 micrograms) if you have epilepsy and are taking AEDs.