Women with epilepsy may be more likely to experience infertility, according to research published October 12, 2010, in the medical journal Neurology. Conducted by a research team in India, the study involved 375 Indian women of childbearing age; all women in the group were trying to become pregnant. Researchers tracked the women's health status until they became pregnant or for up to 10 years. During that time, 62 percent became pregnant, while 38 percent remained infertile. The infertility rate for the women in the general population in India is 15 percent.
Researchers also found that women who were taking three or more drugs for epilepsy were 18 times more likely to be infertile than those taking no epilepsy drugs. Seven percent of those taking no epilepsy drugs were infertile, compared to 32 percent of those taking one epilepsy drug, 41 percent of those taking two epilepsy drugs, and 60 percent of those taking three or more epilepsy drugs.
"This may be due to the adverse effects of taking multiple drugs or it could be a more indirect effect because people who are taking multiple drugs are more likely to have severe epilepsy that is difficult to treat," says study author Dr. Sanjeev Thomas of the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology in Trivandrum, India. Certain epilepsy medications appear to disrupt reproductive hormone production, Thomas believes.
After they actively started trying for a baby, the majority of women in the study who did become pregnant conceived within two years. For others with epilepsy, this bit of data might be important in gauging fertility, researchers note. "Based on these findings, women with epilepsy should be counseled about the potential risk of infertility and referred for an evaluation if they have not conceived within two years," says Dr. Alison M. Pack, study editorial author from Columbia University in New York.