Epilepsy is a disorder of the brain's electrical system that can lead to seizures. Many triggers can cause this abnormality including infections, head injury, brain tumors, and brain injuries at birth. Women with epilepsy face many health issues that may affect their reproductive systems and lead to osteoporosis, weight gain, and sexual dysfunction.
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, all epileptic women should be in good general health and pay close attention to their nutritional needs before and during pregnancy. This includes taking vitamins fortified with folic acid. Studies have shown that if a woman takes Vitamin B (folic acid) before conception and during the first few weeks of pregnancy, it may help reduce the risk of neural tube defects (spina bifida) in her baby. Epileptic women have a greater risk of giving birth to a baby with this birth defect, and, according to Dr. Swaamy, "it is recommended that they take 4 mg of the B vitamin daily."
Obstetricians stress that if epilepsy is kept under control, the chances for a healthy pregnancy and birth can be equivalent to those in women without a chronic condition. If a woman with epilepsy is planning on becoming pregnant, Dr. Swaamy says she should consult with her physician before conception "to determine if anti-seizure medication(s) are appropriate to take at the time of conception and during pregnancy."
The dosage of anti-seizure medication (commonly referred to as AED) that a mom-to-be might be prescribed may need to be adjusted. "A woman's metabolism changes during pregnancy, and therefore the same dosage of a medication may be inadequate to prevent seizures," says Dr. Swaamy.
Dr. Davis says preconception medical counseling is vital for women with epilepsy. "If a woman has been seizure-free for two to five years, we try to slowly tamper them off as much medication to where it may be a single dose, instead of a multi-dose."