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Epilepsy Health Center

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Women, Pregnancy, and Epilepsy

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Getting Pregnant With Epilepsy continued...

Unfortunately, some of the most common drugs for controlling seizures have been found to increase the risk of birth defects. In the general population there is a 2%-3% chance that a child will have a birth defect. In women with epilepsy, this risk goes up to 4%-8%.

To help decrease the chance of birth defects, especially neural tube defects that can affect the brain and spinal cord, women with epilepsy should take at least 0.4 milligrams per day of folic acidsupplements, before they try to conceive.

Epilepsy Drugs Safe for Pregnancy

You can have a normal pregnancy. Talk to your doctor before you try to get pregnant and he will help choose the safest medication at lowest dose for seizure control, and for the health of your baby. You may need to change your medication or adjust your dose. Never stop taking your medication without first talking to a doctor. During your pregnancy you will need to see a specialist to monitor your pregnancy and the health of your baby. You may get extra fetal monitoring

There are no antiseizure drugs that are completely without risk of causing birth defects. But some antiseizure medications appear to be more dangerous for a developing baby than others, and your doctor may be able to avoid prescribing them. Here's what doctors know so far:

  • Valproate, valpoic acid (Depakene, Depakote) seem to carry the highest risk of damage to the baby, particularly neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.

What makes things a bit more confusing is that information about the safety of antiseizure drugs during pregnancy is changing all the time. As a result, managing epilepsy during pregnancy can be complicated. If you who want to become pregnant make sure you see a doctor who keeps up to date on all the newest research. You can also check with the Epilepsy Foundation if you have questions.

Prepare in Advance for Pregnancy With Epilepsy

Depending on what your doctor says about your epilepsy, you may want to change medications before you get pregnant, or it might be fine to stay with the one you are taking now. If you are taking more than one antiseizure drug, your doctor may recommend that you taper down to just one. That's because combinations of drugs to treat epilepsy have a higher risk of causing birth defects than just one drug alone.

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