Doctors say, planned pregnancy can help nearly 90 per cent of epileptic women deliver healthy babies. During pregnancy, despite ongoing treatment, some epileptic women may experience seizures which can affect their health and that of their babies. Yet, if properly managed, the risks are almost negligible, doctors said.
“It’s a myth that women with epilepsy cannot conceive or have children, especially in the case of accidental pregnancy, where if a woman stops or skips her dose of anti-epileptic drugs, seizures may lead to termination of pregnancy,” said Sumit Singh, Director of Neurology at Gurugram-based Artemis Hospital.
He said merely 10 per cent of women knew that epilepsy across the world can be managed and that any epileptic can lead a normal life with the right treatment and controlled seizures.
“Consulting a neurologist for pregnant women with epilepsy becomes important because some women are more likely to have seizures during pregnancy due to fluctuating hormonal changes, change in medicine levels, or other such factors,” said Singh.
“Also, in case of planned pregnancy the neurologist can alter certain medicines with same salts because it is recommended that any switches between anti-epileptic drugs should be accessed before conception to avoid any risk to the foetus,” he added.
According to Epilepsy Foundation, epilepsy is one of the most common medical conditions in women of reproductive age.
It has been estimated that more than 1.1 million women with epilepsy in the United States are of childbearing age. With a birth rate of 3-5 per 1,000 births, approximately 24,000 babies are born to women with epilepsy each year.
“In fact over 90 per cent of women with epilepsy who become pregnant deliver healthy babies. Though controlling seizures during pregnancy can be a daunting task, still it’s important to ‘aim for zero’ convulsions during the phase as seizures can cause injury to the foetus or in some cases it may even cause miscarriages due to physical or emotional trauma experienced during pregnancy,” said Neurologist at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital Prasoon Das.
“The most important thing is to have the anti-seizure medication exactly as prescribed and never to stop taking the medication on their own. Remember, uncontrolled seizures can prove to be fatal and are likely to pose a greater risk to the foetus than any medication or treatment,” said Joshi.
According to the experts, with prescribed treatment most epileptic women are able to deliver their babies without any complications. During labour and delivery they often use the same methods of pain relief as other pregnant women.
“Although seizures don’t commonly occur during labour, but if at all they do, they can be easily controlled with medication,” said Joshi.