Women & Epilepsy

Men and women can have epilepsy. Children, too.
But having epilepsy is different for women.

It’s different for a lot of reasons:

  • It can affect the type of birth control you use
  • It can affect how long it takes you to conceive
  • It can affect the baby before it is born
  • It can affect how you take care of  your new baby
  • Epilepsy is different in women due to the kinds of hormones they have. Even the medications can affect other parts of women’s lives.

Hormones are chemical substances in your blood. They affect things like growth, hunger, sleep, stress, and sexual desire and activity. Hormones affect our bodies in many ways. For example, estrogen and progesterone control a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle. How much of each hormone you have changed during the 28 days or so between one menstrual period and the next. Those changes may affect seizures.

Some women have more seizures when they have high levels of estrogen in their blood. Other women have seizures when their progesterone levels are low.

If you’re having more seizures around the time of your period, or at the same time every month, tell your doctor. Changes in your medication may help, or you may need hormone tests or even hormone medication at a certain time of the month

Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when her ovaries stop working. It usually happens between the age of 45-55. Sometimes it can occur earlier in women with epilepsy.

At menopause, your monthly periods slow down and eventually stop. The level of female hormones produced in your body diminishes, too. We’ve already seen that the female hormone estrogen can increase a women’s seizures. Women who have more seizures around the time of her periods wonder what will happen when their periods stop. Will their seizures stop, too? Currently, no one knows. Some women do have fewer seizures after menopause. However, some have more and some have no change.

If you’re an older woman going through menopause (or afterward) and your seizures are getting worse, consult your doctor.

Women who experience hot flashes and other problems during menopause may be placed on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to make them feel better. The type of therapy that the doctor selects may depend on the kind of epilepsy medicine they take or even the kind of seizure they have.

There are other reasons seizures may happen more often in older women (or men). Always check with your doctor and express your concerns.

It is important to keep your bones strong throughout your entire life, but bone health is a special concern for women with epilepsy. Some medications can weaken bones prematurely. It doesn’t happen all at once,but may react over time. Always ask your doctor what you can do to keep your bones healthy and if you should increase your calcium. Here are some other tips for strong bones:

  • Get plenty of exercise
  • Eat a good diet with lots of calcium
Planning a family

Many years ago, people with epilepsy weren’t allowed to marry. Even today a woman with epilepsy may be advised against pregnancy, and that’s not right. Women with epilepsy can marry and have children just like other women! Still, there are some important things to consider:

-Some medications for epilepsy may not be good for a developing baby, but having seizures when you’re pregnant isn’t good for the baby either! It is best to make an appointment with your doctor prior to getting pregnant so you can discuss any changes in medication and any adjustments in your routine.

Also important is, discussing what vitamins you need to take before you become pregnant. Vitamin supplements such as folic acid help you have a healthy baby.

NEVER stop taking your epilepsy medication on your own. Always check with your doctor first.

Birth control

Perhaps you are not quite ready to have children. If you decide to take birth control pills there is a possibility that your epilepsy medication may interfere with the birth control pills. Be sure to discuss your epilepsy medication with your doctor. You may have to take a stronger birth control pill. Also, using a condom or diaphragm with your birth control pills keeps you safe. There are also other kinds of birth control such as an IUD (Intrauterine Device).

Getting Pregnant

Maybe you’ve been trying to conceive for quite a while. Some women with epilepsy have a difficult time getting pregnant. There are certain conditions in women with epilepsy that may decrease chances of pregnancy. Polycystic ovary syndrome (POS) is one of these conditions. Having POS means that a woman’s ovaries don’t release an egg every month the way they’re supposed to.

Here are some signs of POS:

  • Weight gain especially in the belly
  • Hair growth on the face and body
  • Acne or pimples
  • Irregular periods
  • Thinning hair on head
Helping you have a healthy baby

Here are great tips for having a healthy baby:

  • Keep all your doctor visits
  • Have all blood tests on time
  • Take your medications regularly
  • Eat healthy food
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Take the vitamins your doctor gave you before and during your pregnancy
  • Be positive!

Most women with epilepsy have normal, healthy babies, and most of those babies don’t grow up to have epilepsy. Still, if this is a concern for you ask your doctor about the risks, or consult a genetics counselor.

Pregnancy & Seizures

Some women may experience more seizures when they are pregnant, some women don’t have as many, and some women remain the same.

However, having seizures that make you fall when you’re pregnant can hurt your baby. Chances are that you and the baby will be fine. Just be sure to tell your doctor right away.

When the baby arrives

Epilepsy medications can get into breast milk and make the baby sleepy. If you need to continue taking one of these medications, then perhaps formula is a better solution. Your doctor will help you decide.

If you are breastfeeding, try keeping our baby in a crib or bassinet next to your bed at night. It will make late night feedings easier.

Getting enough sleep is always difficult with a new baby, but not sleeping can also make women have more seizures.

Keeping your baby safe

Some women that have a lot of seizures worry about keeping their baby safe. If you’re one of them here are some ideas that may Help:

  • Give the baby a bath in a baby tub only when other people are with you
  • Prepare an area on the floor and give the baby a sponge bath if you’re alone
  • Sit on the floor to feed your baby
  • Change the baby on a pad on the floor
  • Warm the bottle in the kitchen and bring it to the baby in another room
  • Use a stroller to move the baby from the baby from room to room
  • Take extra care to childproof your house
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help