Pregnancy And Parenting

Having a family is the most natural thing in the world. The majority of women with epilepsy have normal pregnancies and healthy babies. However, your epilepsy management must be addressed, preferably before you decide to start a family.

PRE-PREGNANCY COUNSELLING

Pre-pregnancy counselling is very important as your medication and epilepsy management may need to be reviewed well before pregnancy. By working with your doctor you will minimise any risks to your future child. This is the time to ask important questions, for example:

IS EPILEPSY INHERITED?

Most inherited epilepsies are benign (they are outgrown at adolescence) and easily treated. The risk of passing on epilepsy to your child is low. Accurate diagnosis of your epilepsy may give some indication of the risk.

CAN SPECIFIC MEDICATIONS FOR EPILEPSY AFFECT THE UNBORN?

While the risk of birth defects exists, 95% of women with epilepsy have healthy babies. Some medications for epilepsy are associated with a higher risk of birth defects. Pre-pregnancy planning allows your doctor to reassess your treatment and if needed:

  •  Adjust your dose
  • Change your medication and monitor its effectiveness or
  • Withdraw medication.

UNPLANNED PREGNANCY

It is important not to suddenly stop your medication if you realise you are pregnant.

In the event of an unplanned pregnancy, you should continue taking your medication and speak to your doctor as soon as you can.  Ongoing medical supervision will ensure the best outcome for you and your future child.

CAN ANYTHING BE DONE TO MINIMISE THE RISK OF BIRTH DEFECTS?

Some medications for epilepsy can increase the risk of spina bifida (abnormal development of the spine often causing leg weakness and impairment of bladder control). Increasing your intake of folic acid prior to conception and for the first three months of pregnancy might decrease this risk.

Maintaining a healthy diet, regular moderate exercise and abstaining from tobacco and alcohol will assist in minimising risks in pregnancy.

PREGNANCY REGISTER

Any woman with epilepsy who becomes pregnant can join the Register by telephoning (free phone) 0800-389-1248. An Epilepsy Specialist Nurse or answer phone takes the call and the Register then contacts the woman’s GP to follow up the results of the pregnancy

PREGNANCY

During pregnancy many bodily changes occur. The most common questions asked are:

WILL PREGNANCY AFFECT SEIZURE CONTROL?

For most women seizure control remains unchanged during pregnancy. Some women will experience fewer seizures and others may find their seizures more difficult to control.  It is important to advise your doctor of any seizures during pregnancy. Status epilepticus and prolonged seizures in pregnancy are considered a medical emergency.

IS IT NECESSARY TO CONTINUE TAKING MEDICATION WHILE PREGNANT?

Seizure control during pregnancy is essential for the well being of you and your baby.  Stopping treatment may pose a greater risk to you both than any possible effects of anti-epileptic medications.

BREAST FEEDING

Most mothers wish to breast feed and are usually encouraged by their doctor to do so.  The presence of anti-epileptic medications in breast milk rarely causes problems to the baby. If your baby continually appears drowsy seek specialist advice. Breast-feeding can be a tiring process and lack of sleep may trigger seizures in some mothers. These aspects should be fully discussed with your doctor.

CARING FOR YOUR BABY

Caring for a new baby is tiring especially if the baby is one who wakes often at night.  As lack of sleep may trigger seizures, a daytime nap may be helpful for you as well as baby. Always use a safety harness when baby is in a pram or stroller.

 If you are having seizures:

  • Feeding and changing the baby may be safer if carried out on the floor.  If you are alone sponge rather than bathe baby.
  •  A toddler could be seated in a bouncer chair or car seat on the floor, and sit next to them.
  • Should you have a seizure, the usual fireguards, playpens and stair gates will protect the child from dangers in the home.
  • Carry your child up or down stairs in a carrycot or car seat to provide protection
  • Attach toddler reins to your wrist until your child understands the importance of staying near you should a seizure occur.
  • Children love to mimic adults.  Store medications in childproof containers safely out of reach at all times.
  • Use a pram with a brake that comes on when you release the handle.  REMAP can provide advice on safety brakes for prams. Contact them on telephone 08451 300 456, www.remap.org.uk or consider a belt round your waist to the handle of the pram, with length looped so that it wouldn’t pull the pram over should you fall.
  • As your child gets older, it is important to discuss your seizures and your medication.  Storybooks are available that may help you explain epilepsy to your children.

 If you need help to care for your baby contact your local social services. 

Having a family is the most natural thing in the world. The majority of women with epilepsy have normal pregnancies and healthy babies. However, your epilepsy management must be addressed, preferably before you decide to start a family.

PRE-PREGNANCY COUNSELLING

Pre-pregnancy counselling is very important as your medication and epilepsy management may need to be reviewed well before pregnancy. By working with your doctor you will minimise any risks to your future child. This is the time to ask important questions, for example:

IS EPILEPSY INHERITED?

Most inherited epilepsies are benign (they are outgrown at adolescence) and easily treated. The risk of passing on epilepsy to your child is low. Accurate diagnosis of your epilepsy may give some indication of the risk.

CAN SPECIFIC MEDICATIONS FOR EPILEPSY AFFECT THE UNBORN?

While the risk of birth defects exists, 95% of women with epilepsy have healthy babies. Some medications for epilepsy are associated with a higher risk of birth defects. Pre-pregnancy planning allows your doctor to reassess your treatment and if needed:

  •  Adjust your dose
  • Change your medication and monitor its effectiveness or
  • Withdraw medication.

UNPLANNED PREGNANCY

It is important not to suddenly stop your medication if you realise you are pregnant.

In the event of an unplanned pregnancy, you should continue taking your medication and speak to your doctor as soon as you can.  Ongoing medical supervision will ensure the best outcome for you and your future child.

CAN ANYTHING BE DONE TO MINIMISE THE RISK OF BIRTH DEFECTS?

Some medications for epilepsy can increase the risk of spina bifida (abnormal development of the spine often causing leg weakness and impairment of bladder control). Increasing your intake of folic acid prior to conception and for the first three months of pregnancy might decrease this risk.

Maintaining a healthy diet, regular moderate exercise and abstaining from tobacco and alcohol will assist in minimising risks in pregnancy.

PREGNANCY REGISTER

Any woman with epilepsy who becomes pregnant can join the Register by telephoning (free phone) 0800-389-1248. An Epilepsy Specialist Nurse or answer phone takes the call and the Register then contacts the woman’s GP to follow up the results of the pregnancy

PREGNANCY

During pregnancy many bodily changes occur. The most common questions asked are:

WILL PREGNANCY AFFECT SEIZURE CONTROL?

For most women seizure control remains unchanged during pregnancy. Some women will experience fewer seizures and others may find their seizures more difficult to control.  It is important to advise your doctor of any seizures during pregnancy. Status epilepticus and prolonged seizures in pregnancy are considered a medical emergency.

IS IT NECESSARY TO CONTINUE TAKING MEDICATION WHILE PREGNANT?

Seizure control during pregnancy is essential for the well being of you and your baby.  Stopping treatment may pose a greater risk to you both than any possible effects of anti-epileptic medications.

BREAST FEEDING

Most mothers wish to breast feed and are usually encouraged by their doctor to do so.  The presence of anti-epileptic medications in breast milk rarely causes problems to the baby. If your baby continually appears drowsy seek specialist advice. Breast-feeding can be a tiring process and lack of sleep may trigger seizures in some mothers. These aspects should be fully discussed with your doctor.

CARING FOR YOUR BABY

Caring for a new baby is tiring especially if the baby is one who wakes often at night.  As lack of sleep may trigger seizures, a daytime nap may be helpful for you as well as baby. Always use a safety harness when baby is in a pram or stroller.

 If you are having seizures:

  • Feeding and changing the baby may be safer if carried out on the floor.  If you are alone sponge rather than bathe baby.
  •  A toddler could be seated in a bouncer chair or car seat on the floor, and sit next to them.
  • Should you have a seizure, the usual fireguards, playpens and stair gates will protect the child from dangers in the home.
  • Carry your child up or down stairs in a carrycot or car seat to provide protection
  • Attach toddler reins to your wrist until your child understands the importance of staying near you should a seizure occur.
  • Children love to mimic adults.  Store medications in childproof containers safely out of reach at all times.
  • Use a pram with a brake that comes on when you release the handle.  REMAP can provide advice on safety brakes for prams. Contact them on telephone 08451 300 456,  www.remap.org.uk or consider a belt round your waist to the handle of the pram, with length looped so that it wouldn’t pull the pram over should you fall.
  • As your child gets older, it is important to discuss your seizures and your medication.  Storybooks are available that may help you explain epilepsy to your children.

 If you need help to care for your baby contact your local social services.

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