Epilepsy And Pregnancy

Women with epilepsy have a 90% chance of having a healthy, normal baby.

  • The risk that children of parents with epilepsy will themselves develop epilepsy is only about 5% unless the parent has a clearly hereditary form of the disorder. A genetic counselor can help determine the risks for a specific type of epilepsy. Amniocentesis and ultrasound can help assure that a baby is developing normally.
  • Some antiepileptic drugs can slightly increase the risk for birth defects such as cleft palate, spinal problems and heart problems. Under ideal circumstances, a woman should give her doctor enough time to adjust medications before she tries to become pregnant. However, if a woman becomes pregnant before talking with her doctor, she should continue taking seizure medication as prescribed until the doctor can make any necessary changes.
  • Labor and delivery are usually normal for women with epilepsy. Antiepileptic drugs can be given intravenously during labor to reduce the risk of a seizure. Babies sometimes have symptoms of withdrawal from the mother’s seizure medication, but these wear off after a few months and usually don’t cause long-term problems.
  • Women on antiepileptic medications can breast-feed safely.The amount of medication consumed in the breast milk is considerably lower than the amount the baby was exposed to in the womb, and the benefits of breast-feeding usually outweigh the risks.

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