Epilepsy & Pregnancy: The War within Myself

Epilepsy & Pregnancy: The War within Myself

I suffer from epilepsy. I developed the disorder at the age of five from viral encephalitis. There are many myths and misconceptions about epilepsy. It was very hard for me to accept my disorder. I felt like I was in a battle against myself. Fighting a disorder, I had no control over.

For many years, I was in denial and I felt sorry for myself. Finally, I joined a research group because I was desperate to find that magic drug that would help me control my seizures. I looked around and saw people with epilepsy who had brain damage caused by the number of seizures they were experiencing, people so drugged up that they could not talk, and people having up to sixty seizures a day, some an hour and a half long.

At that moment, I no longer pitied myself. I then realized that I was fortunate: I could function and experience the joys of life. So I worked on myself and learned to cope with my disorder and in the back of my head, I was determined to one day help others who suffer from epilepsy.

The Journey to Motherhood

Even though I believed having epilepsy was not going to stop me from living a happy, productive life, I still worried if I could become a mother. I wanted to have my own children. I did not want to adopt. Nevertheless, I did not want to bring a baby into this world with Down Syndrome or any type of birth defect.

Why should I bring a child into this world if they could not enjoy life the way they were meant to enjoy life. That would be selfish and mean on my part. There was a lot to consider. This was a serious decision that was not going to take lightly.

After months of research, consultation with my doctors, long discussions with my husband. We came to a decision that we were going to have a baby. My doctor watched me closely. I had numerous tests and blood work. In addition, I took my medication like clockwork, However, I was nervous during my nine months of pregnancy.

I tried to do everything by the book. First, I ate only the healthiest foods, made sure I steamed all my vegetables, always had a good night sleep, stop drinking coffee, took my folic acid, and I did everything the doctor told me to do.

I couldn’t ask for a better pregnancy. I was not tired until my seventh month. They had me taking Trileptal during my entire pregnancy. In Europe, Trileptal was used a lot with pregnant women with epilepsy. During my pregnancies I had fewer seizures than when I was not pregnant’ I gave birth to Michael at eight and a half months. Michael was healthy and had no birth defects. Now years later, I have three healthy children. My son Michael, who is seventeen years old, My daughter Alexis, who is fifteen years old and Anthony who is thirteen years old.

The Common Fears

Many women with epilepsy are afraid to have children because of possible birth defects, afraid that the medication they are taking would have some type of negative effect to the baby, they are afraid their seizures would increase or the severity of the seizure. These are common fears that many women have with epilepsy, but as you know everybody’s disorder is different.

Some women have focal and some women have grand mal seizures. Everyone reacts differently to various medications. Some women can be controlled with medication and some cannot. Some people’s seizures come from the left or right temporal part of the brain, some from the frontal, and some from all parts of the brain.

What I am trying to say, is because each woman’s disorder is different, depending on the type of epilepsy, they have, past medical history and their families past medical history, each woman’s pregnancy will be different. This is why you need to consult with your doctor and see if it is a good idea to have children

Do not Let the Myths Discourage You from Becoming a Mother

Approximately 1,000,000 women of childbearing age in the United States suffer from epilepsy and more than 90 percent of women with epilepsy have normal, healthy babies. Still many women still believed in many myths about pregnancy rather than focusing on the facts backed by medical research. You can have healthy children with epilepsy and be a great mother. Life does not end because you have epilepsy. Life is full of new opportunities waiting for you to explore. Do not think you cannot enjoy what life has to offer just because you have epilepsy.
Epilepsy will never bring me down. I always carry a positive attitude. I take life day by day and l live life to the fullest. Yes, I have limitations in my life. Nevertheless, I refuse to let my disorder interfere with my life.

Below are some simple tips that worked well for me.

If you are thinking about pregnancy…
  1. Discuss the pregnancy with your spouse. Decide if pregnancy is right for you.
  2. Discuss getting pregnant with your epileptologist
  3. Plan the pregnancy

If you become pregnant, remember to…

  1. Eat Healthily– Your baby eats what you eat and your body will perform better if you eat healthy so you want to make sure that you eat healthily and consume enough of nutrients and protein for you and your baby. Remember your baby is developing inside of you. In order for the baby to be healthy, the baby needs to use your nutrients and protein in your body, so you need to make sure that you eat healthy and consume more nutrients and proteins than you normally did before you were pregnant.
  2. Get Plenty of Sleep and Relaxation – Getting enough sleep is very important because when you are pregnant the baby takes a lot out of you. The baby is using your food supply nutrients ECT, as we just mentioned. It is common to be fatigued, but when you are feeling drained and run downed you are more likely to have a seizure, so plenty of rest is important during pregnancy.
  3. Take Vitamins Prescribed by Your Doctor – During your pregnancy, it is very important for you to take vitamin supplements and folic acid (a B vitamin), which can help prevent certain kinds of birth defects. Taking these vitamins before you get pregnant will help you.
  4. See your doctor regularly
  5. Track your seizures: Epilepsy.com is an excellent website that provides an outstanding seizure diary program. You can find their seizure diary program at epilepsy.com/seizurediary
  6. Report increases in seizures to your doctor
  7. Communicate well and follow your doctor’s advice

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