Dr. MJ Bazos MD, Patient Handout
Epilepsy and Pregnancy

Are there risks to me if I become pregnant?

Women with epilepsy who become pregnant have a higher risk for complications than women who don't have epilepsy. These complications include the possibility that your seizures will occur more often. The seizures can cause you to fall and have a serious injury. When you are pregnant, your body processes your anti-seizure medicines differently. This can lead to medicine levels that are too high (which can cause side effects) or too low (which can mean more seizures). Every woman who has epilepsy and becomes pregnant will react differently, so your doctor will talk to you about the risks and monitor you and your baby closely.

Are there risks to my baby?

More than 90% of women with epilepsy have normal, healthy babies. But there are some risks. Babies of mothers with epilepsy have a higher risk of being stillborn. They might also have a slightly greater risk of developing seizures as they get older. There is also more risk for problems such as bleeding, early birth and delays in development and growth, as well as the possibility of birth defects due to the medicine you take. However, the risks if you don't take your medicine are much higher for your baby, and include physical injury, developmental delay and even death from your seizures.

What can I do to help protect myself and my baby?

It's very important that you take your seizure medicine just as your doctor tells you. If you haven't had any seizures for two years or more, your doctor may wish to try and slowly stop your seizure medicine.
It's also 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 give you the most benefit. Tell your doctor about any history in your family (or in the family of the baby's father) of brain or spinal defects. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly are other things you can do to have a safe and healthy pregnancy.

What can I expect when I'm pregnant?

During your pregnancy, you will see your doctor often. Your doctor will do blood tests to be sure that you're getting enough seizure medicine. It's very common for changes to be made in the dose of your medicine during your pregnancy. Your doctor may also want you to have several ultrasound exams (called sonograms) during your pregnancy. You may even have an amniocentesis. In this procedure, a small amount of fluid is removed from your uterus. This fluid gives your doctor some information about the health of your unborn baby. Your doctor will explain this test to you if you need to have one.