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Pregnancy Health A-Z: Epilepsy
If you suffer from epilepsy, youll most likely be used to managing your seizures – but how does that change when youre pregnant?
Epilepsy may be a condition youve lived with, and coped with, for many years. Youll know what tends to cause your fits and which situations you can and cant cope with. As long as you take your medication there is no reason why youre pregnancy should be any different from another womans. But that doesnt mean you might not be worried.
Thankfully, most mums-to-be with epilepsy dont experience an increase in seizures during pregnancy. If youre taking epilepsy medicines when you become pregnant, youll most likely be advised to continue to do so during pregnancy.
lsquo;Whether or not youre using treatment to control your epilepsy, talk to your doctor if your seizures change, says Nicole Crosby-McKenna, womens officer at Epilepsy Action. lsquo;You may be advised to take a higher dose of your epilepsy medicine or to start taking another epilepsy medicine.
The type, dose and number of epilepsy medicines taken are important. lsquo;Taking sodium valproate is shown to carry a higher risk for your baby but this risk is related to dosage and the amount of drugs taken, says Nicole. lsquo;The medicines carbamazepine, lamotrigine and levetiracetam have been show to carry a lower risk.
It can all be scary, but dont stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor first as the risk of uncontrolled fits has to be balanced against the risk of harm to your baby.
Fortunately, your baby shouldnt be harmed if you have a fit, but it does increase your risk of having an accident.
lsquo;Theres a small risk of harm to you and your baby if you have frequent full (grand mal) seizures, or a very prolonged seizure, explains Nicole. lsquo;This is because the amount of oxygen in your body is reduced.
Theres no reason why your baby shouldnt be born completely healthily, but there are risks. Sadly, around one or two babies in every 100 who are born to an epileptic mum has a physical defect. As do one in every 25 babies born to mums who took epilepsy medicines during pregnancy.
There isnt a huge risk of your baby having epilepsy ndash; around two to five in every 100 children born to parents with epilepsy will inherit the condition.
There may be a few differences in your care, depending on the health of you and baby.
You should be referred to a midwife or obstetrician early in pregnancy and might also be referred to your epilepsy doctor or nurse.
lsquo;The professionals should develop a shared care plan, Nicole says. lsquo;This will include information about your epilepsy, seizure type, future appointments and check-ups, as well as contact details of all your specialists. If your seizures increase, your doctor might decide to change your epilepsy treatment.
You will also have a foetal anomaly scan at around week 18-20, as there is a small increased risk of your baby having a malformation. You might also be offered another scan closer to your due date, depending on yours and your babys health. lsquo;Youll be advised to give birth in an obstetric-led unit in hospital, Nicole explains. lsquo;This is to make sure that a doctor can care for you and your baby if you have a seizure during labour.
Chances are youll have a normal vaginal delivery, as the risk of having a seizure during labour is really small ndash; just one or two epileptic women out of 100 will have a fit in labour. lsquo;Youll need to take your medication as normal during labour, says Nicole. lsquo;If youve had a few seizures during your pregnancy, your doctor might prescribe an additional medication to further reduce your risk of having a seizure.
You can use pain relief during labour including epidurals and TENS machines, but its generally advised to avoid pethidine as high doses of this pain killer have triggered seizures in some people.
As much as possible, stay calm and relax ndash; try not to over-breathe during labour, particularly when using gas and air, as this can be a seizure trigger for some people.
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