Pregnancy with epilepsy requires careful medical care. With proper treatment, you can have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Medication management and regular prenatal care are essential.

pregnant person laying on their sideShare on Pinterest
vorDa/Getty Images

Epilepsy is a chronic neurological condition that causes repeated seizures. If you have epilepsy and become pregnant, you will need special treatment throughout your pregnancy. Seizure disorders such as epilepsy affect 0.3–0.8% of all pregnancies.

Most people who have epilepsy during pregnancy have the diagnosis before they become pregnant. Doctors make the diagnosis after multiple medical tests. Pregnancy does not cause epilepsy.

Many factors can contribute to the development of epilepsy. Some of the most common factors are brain injuries, stroke, brain tumors, head injuries, and infections.

Early and regular prenatal care can help you have a healthy pregnancy with epilepsy.

Learn more about epilepsy.

Seizures are dangerous during pregnancy mainly because of the risk of injuries from falls or trauma.

In most cases, epilepsy doesn’t worsen during pregnancy. But having epilepsy may increase your risk for:

Symptoms of epilepsy are the same during pregnancy as they are when you’re not pregnant. Seizures are the most common symptom. Epilepsy may cause a few different types of seizures.

It’s rare to have your first epileptic seizure during pregnancy. There are other causes of seizures during pregnancy, including eclampsia.

The results of a 2013 study suggest that most people don’t have an increased frequency of seizures during pregnancy. In this study, 66.6% of people with epilepsy stayed seizure-free during pregnancy.

However, according to the Epilepsy Foundation, 15­–30% of women with epilepsy experience an increase in seizure frequency during pregnancy, most commonly during the first and third trimesters. The type of seizures you have does not predict whether you’ll have more seizures during your pregnancy.

The longer you’ve gone without seizures, the greater the chances are that you’ll stay seizure-free during pregnancy.

Tonic-clonic seizures can be harmful during pregnancy because they can cause low oxygen levels (hypoxemia) in your fetus. During a seizure, your fetus may experience a decrease in heart rate. Convulsive seizures can also cause injury to your fetus and placenta.

Different types of seizures can pose different risks to your baby. Frequent seizures and some antiseizure medications are associated with increased rates of:

People with epilepsy who do not take epilepsy medications have a similar rate of fetal developmental issues to those without epilepsy. But fetal exposure to antiepileptic medication is associated with a 2–3 times greater risk of significant developmental issues.

Most babies born to people with epilepsy are healthy. Even though there are risks, more than 90% of babies have no evident negative effects from their parent’s epilepsy or medications used to treat it.

Children of parents with epilepsy have a slightly increased risk of developing epilepsy during their lives. A genetic counselor can help you determine the chances that your child may develop the condition.

If you have epilepsy during pregnancy, the treatment is antiepileptic medications. Here is some essential information about taking these medications during pregnancy:

  • You should discuss the risks of different medications with your OB-GYN and neurologist.
  • Your doctor may need to change your medication doses often to manage your seizures.
  • Your doctor may need to add a second medication.
  • Single-drug use is preferred to lower the risk to your fetus.
  • Some medications pose a higher risk of developmental irregularities in your baby, while others pose a higher risk of developmental delays.
  • The medication that comes with the greatest risk of physical developmental issues is valproate. Avoid this medication whenever possible.
  • The risks from seizures during pregnancy are more significant than the risks from taking seizure medications.

The significant changes in your body during pregnancy require your doctor to monitor your antiseizure medication levels frequently. They may need to adjust your dosage based on your blood levels.

Folic acid supplementation is essential to help prevent developmental conditions such as spina bifida. The standard dosage of folic acid in pregnancy is 400 micrograms per day. If you take epilepsy medications, your doctor will probably recommend a total folic acid dosage of 4–5 milligrams per day.

Avoiding seizure triggers is another essential aspect of managing epilepsy during pregnancy. Common triggers include:

It’s critical to tell your healthcare team about any changes in your seizures, attend all prenatal and neurology appointments, and complete all blood tests and ultrasounds as recommended.

With proper medical management and close monitoring, you can navigate pregnancy with epilepsy without significant complications. By planning carefully and following your doctor’s recommendations, you can find a balance between seizure management and potential risk to your baby.

Is epilepsy in pregnancy considered high risk?

Yes, epilepsy during pregnancy is usually considered high risk due to potential complications to you and your baby. But you can have a healthy pregnancy with proper medical and prenatal care.

Can having a seizure while pregnant hurt the baby?

Seizures during pregnancy can be dangerous to your baby. During a seizure, your baby may not receive enough oxygen. Your baby or placenta may get injured during a seizure.

Is it safe to be pregnant with epilepsy?

While pregnancy with epilepsy requires careful management, you can have a safe and healthy pregnancy. Working closely with your healthcare team, following your recommended treatment, and undergoing regular monitoring can significantly improve your outcomes.

Navigating pregnancy with epilepsy requires careful management and collaboration with your healthcare team. While you may experience challenges, most people with epilepsy have healthy pregnancies and deliver healthy babies. It’s essential to prioritize seizure management and keep all your medical appointments.