Epilepsy in pregnancy

Epilepsy is a relatively common condition. Most women who have epilepsy remain free of seizures throughout pregnancy and they have straightforward pregnancies and healthy babies. It is important to continue taking your medication because having frequent seizures during pregnancy can be harmful for you and your baby. Therefore, planning your pregnancy and having extra care during your pregnancy can reduce the risks to you and your baby.
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With any pregnancy there is a small chance that your baby may not develop normally in the womb. The risk of this happening may be slightly higher with anti-epileptic drugs. The risk of harm to your baby is higher with sodium valproate than others. The most common problems for your baby linked to these medications include spina bifida, facial cleft or heart abnormalities. If you are planning a pregnancy it is important to discuss this with your GP or epilepsy specialist. This is because they may wish to change your medications or dose for use in pregnancy.

It's difficult to predict how pregnancy will affect epilepsy. For some women their epilepsy is unaffected, while others may see an improvement in their condition. However, as pregnancy can cause physical and emotional stress, as well as increased tiredness, your seizures may become more frequent and severe. If this happens to you, let your doctor, midwife or epilepsy specialist know.

If you're taking medication to control your epilepsy, you will need to take 5 milligrams (5mg) of folic acid once a day as soon as you start trying for a baby. This is to reduce the risk of developmental problems with your baby. This will need to be prescribed for you, usually by your GP, as it is a higher dose than normal.

A specific epilepsy in pregnancy tool kit has been designed to provide a summary of your epilepsy, treatment, management and recommendations which you may find useful. Please click on this link to download the toolkit.

Click on this link for more information on what to expect during pregnancy, labour and the postnatal period