Epilepsy may cause extra anxiety when you are considering pregnancy. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to ensure you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby:
- Take the vitamin supplements recommended by your doctors.
- Tell the doctor about your family’s medical history, and the history of the family of the baby’s father, including any brain or spinal defects.
- Eat a healthy diet before, during, and after the pregnancy.
- Limit or eliminate your caffeine intake.
- Get sufficient sleep. It is normal to be tired during pregnancy, but when you are run-down you are more likely to have a seizure, so plenty of rest is important during pregnancy.
- Exercise regularly. Exercising regularly helps keep you in shape, strengthens your body, and relieves stress. Pregnancy is a joyous time, but it is a stressful time, too. Stress can cause seizures, so do
- whatever is necessary to make your pregnancy as stress-free as possible.
- Avoid smoking, alcohol, and recreational drugs.
- Take your antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) as prescribed by your doctor.
- Follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding tests to rule out potential problems with the baby, including ultrasound and amniocentesis.
Guidelines for Physicians and Other Health Care Professionals:
- Use the most effective antiepileptic drug in monotherapy at the lowest possible dose.
- If there is a family history of neural tube defects and there are acceptable treatment alternatives, avoid valproate (Depakote) and carbamazepine (Tegretol).
- Monitor the free (nonprotein-bound) fraction of the antiepileptic drug at each trimester, before delivery, and 4 to 8 weeks after delivery.
- Adjust the antiepileptic drug dosage according to the nonprotein-bound (free) level.
- Provide folate supplementation at a dosage of 0.4–4 mg per day before conception and throughout gestation.
- Offer prenatal testing with anatomic ultrasound and maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein at 15 to 20 weeks of gestation.
- Early planning, management, and education are essential for all women of childbearing age who have epilepsy. Ultimately, a woman with epilepsy has the right to make an educated decision regarding
- pregnancy. The risk of having a baby with epilepsy or other problems often discourages couples from having children. If you are a woman with epilepsy and decide to conceive a child, you can use these
- strategies to increase your chances of having a normal pregnancy, birth, and baby.
Meet the Expert!
Stacey Chillemi, an epilepsy sufferer for over 27 years, has published numerous articles and books on epilepsy, including Epilepsy: You’re Not Alone and My Mommy Has Epilepsy. She is an H.O.P.E. mentor for the Epilepsy Foundation and speaks at many schools and organizations to educate others about epilepsy. In 2002, Ms. Chillemi was proud to accept the Outstanding Volunteer Award from the Epilepsy Foundation of New Jersey