From puberty to pregnancy, epilepsy affects more than one million women in the United States. Women with epilepsy face unique challenges when dealing with hormonal changes throughout their lives. “It’s important to be aware of these challenges, and even more important to maintain a consistent relationship with a physician to proactively manage each life stage,” says Anumeha Sheth, MD, neurologist at the Ayer Neuroscience Institute Seizure and Epilepsy Center in Southington.
What is epilepsy?
By itself, a single seizure doesn’t constitute epilepsy. Epilepsy occurs when surges of electrical activity in the brain cause recurring, unprovoked seizures. It’s estimated that 1 in 26 people develop the condition. Epilepsy does not discriminate – it affects people of all genders, races, ethnic backgrounds and ages.
Epilepsy looks different for everyone
People with epilepsy can have different types of seizures, or other symptoms of neurological problems. These include:
- Temporary confusion
- Staring spells
- Uncontrollable jerking movements
- Loss of consciousness
Can you still have a healthy pregnancy if you have epilepsy?
Women with epilepsy are just as likely to get pregnant and can still carry a healthy baby. “Many women have healthy pregnancies with no worsening of seizure control. Generally, if a woman’s epilepsy is controlled in the months leading up to pregnancy, then it’s likely to remain controlled during pregnancy,” Sheth says. More than 90% of babies born to women with epilepsy are healthy. Sheth advises women to discuss their condition ahead of time with their doctor.
How is epilepsy treated?
“Treatment with medicine or sometimes surgery can control seizures for most women with epilepsy. For some women, seizures could eventually go away, But for others, epilepsy requires lifelong treatment,” Sheth adds.