Women with epilepsy, without previous infertility and related disorders, who were attempting to get pregnant were as likely to conceive as their counterparts without epilepsy, according to findings recently published in JAMA Neurology.
“Prior studies report lower birth rates for women with epilepsy but have been unable to differentiate between biological and social contributions,” Page B. Pennell, MD, department of neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and colleagues wrote. “To our knowledge, we do not have data to inform [women with epilepsy] seeking pregnancy if their likelihood of achieving pregnancy is biologically reduced compared with their peers.”
Researchers recruited, then analyzed data from 197 women — 89 with epilepsy, 108 women without epilepsy — who did not use tobacco and had not been previously diagnosed with infertility or a disorder that lowered their chances of conceiving.
Pennell and colleagues found that 60.7% of the women with epilepsy became pregnant vs. 60.2% of the control group and no epilepsy factors were significant. In addition, after controlling data for age, BMI, education level, employment status, ethnicity, marital status, prior pregnancy and race, researchers found that intercourse activity, ovulatory rates and median time to pregnancy did not differ between the groups. Also, 81.5% of the pregnancies in both groups resulted in live births.
“Prior research has suggested [women with epilepsy] are at higher risk of reproductive endocrine dysfunction, and [polycystic ovary syndrome] occurs more frequently in [women with epilepsy], especially with valproate use in idiopathic generalized epilepsy syndromes. Therefore, we excluded women with PCOS to be able to determine if women without known PCOS have impaired fertility,” Pennell and colleagues wrote.
“Our findings are directly applicable to the more common clinical scenario of [women with epilepsy] without a preexisting diagnosis of infertility or associated disorders seeking information from their physicians when they decide they want to become pregnant.” – by Janel Miller
Disclosure: Pennell reports receiving grants from the Epilepsy Therapy Project, the Epilepsy Foundation, Milken Family Foundation and National Institutes of Health during the conduct of the study. She has also received honoraria and travel reimbursements from academic universities, the American Academy of Neurology, American Epilepsy Society, the National Institutes of Health, and the Indian Academy of Neurology and the Peru Ministry of Health. Please see the study for the other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.