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What are seizures?

A seizure is a period when nerve cells in certain areas of the brain show abnormal activity. During a seizure, one may experience uncontrolled movements, loss of consciousness, a change in mood or other symptoms due to abnormal nerve functions.

What is epilepsy?

If a person has experienced more than one seizure with no clear cause, the condition is diagnosed as epilepsy. People with epilepsy need to take anti-epileptic drugs to prevent or minimise seizure episodes.

Do seizure disorders affect pregnancy?

Seizures can have negative effects on pregnancy and women with a history of seizures need special care before and during pregnancy.

What are the effects of seizure disorders on pregnancy?

About one-third of women experience more seizure episodes during pregnancy. Having a seizure during pregnancy can harm you and your baby, especially if you have loss of consciousness or uncontrolled jerking causing injuries or falls. Your baby may receive less oxygen during a seizure episode. Seizure disorders are linked with an increased risk of birth defects, early labour or a preterm birth. Good medical care before and during pregnancy helps minimise these problems.

What care do women with seizure disorders receive during pregnancy?

Anti-epileptic drugs help reduce the frequency of seizure episodes during pregnancy. Blood tests are performed on a regular basis during your pregnancy to check medication levels. Your doctor may recommend special tests such as an ultrasound, amniocentesis, or chorionic villus sampling to rule out certain birth defects. Seizure disorders normally do not affect the way in which you deliver your baby and a vaginal delivery is possible if no problems exist.

Are there any side effects of anti-epileptic drugs?

The use of anti-epileptic drugs may be associated with an increased risk of birth defects probably because it affects the way folic acid is used by the body. Folic acid is a type of vitamin B necessary for your baby’s development in the initial weeks of pregnancy. If you are on anti-epileptic drugs, your doctor will recommend that you take extra folic acid before and during the first 3 months of pregnancy. Stopping anti-epileptic drugs during pregnancy is not recommended, as having a seizure episode carries greater risk. Your doctor may however change your medications and dosages before or during pregnancy.

Anti-epileptic drugs can make certain hormonal methods of birth control less effective, so alternate methods or a combination of methods are recommended after pregnancy. Sterilisation is an option if you do not wish to have more children.

The University of Western AustraliaST John of God Health CareGlengarry Private Hospital