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How can I Deal with Epilepsy During Pregnancy?

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  • Written By: Synthia L. Rose
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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Women who suffer from epilepsy during pregnancy can continue taking medication to control seizures, even though it might lead to birth defects, most doctors say. Anti-seizure medication can contribute to birth defects such as deformed skeletons and cleft palates in roughly 8 percent of women. Seizures, however, are a greater danger, as they can cause the placenta to detach from the uterus or trigger premature birth. Oxygen deprivation for the baby can also occur if the mother goes into an epileptic seizure, which is why continued medication is recommended. Many doctors are able to reduce medication dosages for some patients with epilepsy during pregnancy in order to curb risk of birth deformities.

Increasing folic acid intake three months before conception is encouraged for women who have epilepsy. While all pregnant women require folic acid, epileptic women generally need more in order to prevent defects of the spinal cord, neural tube, and brain, which seizure medication can cause in developing babies. Frequent ultrasounds can track whether abnormalities are forming in babies of women with epilepsy. Medical statistics suggest roughly 90 percent of women with epilepsy are able to deliver healthy babies.

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Joint meetings between a woman’s obstetrician and neurologist are generally necessary to coordinate treatment for epilepsy during pregnancy. These medical teams can often decide to reduce several medications to just one selection. Blood levels and blood pressure are regularly monitored by the health team to prevent anemia, vaginal bleeding, and preeclampsia, all three of which can be present during pregnancy for epileptic women. Stress levels are also monitored, as they can trigger epileptic seizures.

Those enduring epilepsy during pregnancy should be prepared for more severe morning sickness, doctors contend. Babies born with low birth weights and, in some cases, stillborn babies are a possibility for women with epilepsy during pregnancy. After birth, internal bleeding can occur in babies born to women with epilepsy; doctors typically recommend vitamin K supplements to combat this risk. Babies of mothers with epilepsy can also develop a tendency for seizures which can lead to impaired development and bodily injury.

Seizures during labor are rare. If an epileptic seizure is triggered during the birthing process, however, doctors can deliver medication intravenously to halt the seizure. Such medications should not interfere with pain medications given to ease delivery. In cases of extreme or prolonged seizures, doctors may opt for Caesarean section delivery over vaginal birth.

Many women wish to breastfeed their newborns after triumphing over epilepsy during pregnancy. Although traces of some medications enter the breast milk supply of lactating women with epilepsy, many doctors encourage breastfeeding, particularly if mothers can take medication after feedings or during the hours when the baby is asleep. Medications like phenobarbital can create drowsiness in babies.

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