Managing the symptoms of epilepsy during pregnancy
Pregnancy can create some specific challenges both to mother and baby. At each stage of pregnancy, it’s important to get professional advice from a pregnancy specialist to ensure the best possible outcomes.
Trying to conceive
Anti-epileptic drugs can cause infertility for some people, whilst also limiting the effectiveness of hormonal birth control which can increase the chances of unexpected pregnancy for other people. These drugs can make conception hit or miss. As many anti-epileptic medications are tetragenic (can cause mutations), it’s important to monitor unplanned pregnancies as soon as possible so that the mother can have her medications adjusted if required and any issues with the pregnancy can be identified early.
Where there are substantial issues conceiving the pregnancy specialist may suggest additional fertility treatments to increase the chance of pregnancy, or temporarily change dosages or types of epilepsy medications to increase fertility.
For women who do have a successful conception, it’s important to monitor the pregnancy progress more closely when the mother is an epileptic, as compared to a mother who doesn’t suffer from epilepsy. When the mother suffers from seizures during pregnancy, this can have adverse effects on the baby such as a raised heart rates and distress. It it important for mothers with epilepsy to keep checking in with their pregnancy specialist with regard to the frequency and severity of their seizures.
The OBGYN will also take more ultrasounds of a mother with epilepsy to check for the occurrence of any developmental problems stemming from any anti-epileptic medications.
Lifestyle control such as reducing stress and getting enough sleep can be useful to help manage seizure frequency. Some mothers find that pregnancy helps reduce their seizure rate, while other mothers find they suffer more seizures when pregnant. It’s important to have a good relationship with the pregnancy specialist to help manage symptoms, as they are different in all pregnancies.
While the risk of a having a seizure while giving birth is low, it’s still advisable to have a hospital birth so that you can access any specialized medical help you need during the birth process.
Having a great relationship with an experienced pregnancy specialist, who has managed other pregnant mothers with epilepsy can help you to have a relatively smooth and stress free pregnancy. It’s important for epileptic pregnancies for the pregnancy specialist to work alongside your neurologist and other medical professionals to create a seamless and coherent birth plan.