Epilepsy is a common illness, affecting more than 600,000 people in the UK and poses a number of risks to a pregnancy. If you suffer from epilepsy and you’re planning on becoming pregnant, it can be hard to predict the experience that each individual will have but there are a certain number of risks that women need to be aware of while carrying a child.
What Is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a neurological condition where a sudden burst of intense electrical activity in the brain causes a disruption to how the brain normally works, resulting in an epileptic seizure.
Epilepsy and the risks during pregnancy
While many epilepsy sufferers do not experience complications during their pregnancy, it is important to realise that both the mother and baby are at a much higher risk of complications than those who do not suffer from the condition.
While some women don’t see a change in their condition during pregnancy, and some even see an improvement, it is possible that your seizures may become more frequent and severe. Unborn babies are not usually harmed by their mother having a seizure, although this depends on the type of seizure and the circumstances.
According to the RCOG, the risk of death during pregnancy is 10 times greater for an epilepsy-sufferer than those without the condition, and deaths linked to epileptic fits during pregnancy were usually due to poorly controlled seizures. Between 2009-2013, 21 women died during pregnancy due to epilepsy.
Certain drugs that are taken to control epilepsy can affect the health of your unborn baby. These include risks such as:
- Lower intellectual abilities
- Poor language skills
- Memory problems
- Autistic spectrum disorders
- Delayed walking and talking
The RCOG guidelines state that epilepsy sufferers who are planning on becoming pregnant should have a clinician competent in the management of epilepsy to take responsibility for sharing decisions around choice and dose of Anti Epileptic Drugs (AEDs), based on the risk to the foetus and control of seizures.
The risk of having a seizure during birth is small, with 1 or 2 women in 100 experiencing complications, according to Epilepsy Action.
Director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, Louise Silverton, said
“It is vital we remember that women with epilepsy are classified as high risk during their pregnancy, often they require more monitoring and specialist care during the course of their pregnancy. However, the majority of women with epilepsy will give birth safely.”
If you have epilepsy, it is vital that your pregnancy is monitored very closely by a GP who knows the history of your personal condition, so you can ensure that you have a safe and healthy pregnancy.
If you have any concerns about your pregnancy and the risks relating to epilepsy, or if you have recently found out you’re pregnant, visit your GP as soon as possible. If your surgery is currently closed, and you are registered at one of these Richmond surgeries find out more about the Richmond GP Out of Hours Service.