For women diagnosed with epilepsy, pregnancy can go on normally, but they need special care from Best Gynecologist in Lahore. Women with epilepsy can have a healthy baby, with good seizure control, but the wrong medication can increase the risk of birth defects in the baby. Thus, the right support is necessary during this period.
Read on to know more about how to treat epilepsy in pregnancy:
What is epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder with abnormal electrical activity in the brain, thereby causing seizures. These seizures are like a burst of electrical activity in the brain, which may be localized to a part of the brain or be more generalized. Depending on the part of the brain involved in seizure activity, the symptoms can vary during an acute attack.
The symptoms of epileptic seizures include:
- Staring blankly for a few seconds
- Stiffness in muscles
- Temporary confusion
- Uncontrollable jerking movement of the arms and legs, also called a ‘fit’
- Losing awareness
- Strange sensations such as tingling in the arms, feeling unusual taste or smell
- Loss of consciousness
Epilepsy is a life-long condition that gets better with medication. Once diagnosed with epilepsy, one should strictly adhere to the medication regimen as recommended by the healthcare provider, and be sure not to skip medication. Many people skip medication during seizure-free period, causing a relapse.
Epilepsy and pregnancy
Epilepsy can affect both men and women in all age groups, but it is one of the most common neurological condition in women of reproductive age group. In the United States alone, more than 24,000 babies are born annually to women with epilepsy.
To protect themselves and their babies, women with epilepsy should get information from their healthcare provider about epilepsy and pregnancy before conception. This includes knowing about their medication, and its effect on contraception, as certain anti-seizure medication can reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills, and increase the chances of pregnancy.
If women with epilepsy want to get pregnant, they should discuss their condition with their healthcare provider and take certain measures, such as prophylactic folic acid, before they plan the pregnancy. Such women should not be taking multiple anti-seizure drugs if they are not needed, and should be on the lowest possible dose of a safe anti-seizure drug, as recommended by their healthcare provider. A single drug has lower chances of birth defects in the baby, as well as, a better side-effect profile and compliance.
Risk of seizures during pregnancy
Monitoring the levels of anti-seizure drugs is important during pregnancy as the aim is to control seizure activity with the lowest possible dose, and decreasing the risk of exposure to the fetus.
However, it is important to remember that seizure activity may increase during pregnancy as:
- Blood levels of the anti-seizure drugs go down due to increased clearance from the body, compared to pre-pregnancy.
- Sleep deprivation and increased physical stress on the body increase the chances of seizure activity.
- Emotional stress predisposes to seizure activity.
What is the effect of epilepsy on pregnancy?
Seizures can have adverse effect on the baby, including:
- Slowed fetal heart rate
- Preterm labor
- Injury to the fetus
- Increased risk of miscarriage due to fall during seizure activity
- Decrease oxygen delivery to the fetus
- Placental abruption
- Premature birth
What are the guidelines for epilepsy in pregnant women?
Pregnancy can be safe for women with epilepsy if the guidelines are followed. These include:
- Lifestyle modification: taking the prenatal vitamins, eating healthy food, working out, getting enough sleep and avoiding caffeine and cigarette smoke are important during pregnancy.
- Getting folic acid: as mentioned before, prophylactic folic acid can save the baby from serious neural tube birth defects like spina bifida and cleft palate. Ideally, such women should start folic acid three months before conception.
- Monitoring medication levels: blood levels of the pregnancy-safe anti-seizure drugs should be measured at the start of each trimester and after 32 weeks by Best Gynecologist in Karachi.