People living with epilepsy may experience certain symptoms during pregnancy. While these symptoms, such as hormonal changes and increased stress, are uncommon, proper medical care can help individuals manage them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that around 3.4 million people in the United States have epilepsy. Researchers believe that most cases of the condition are due to genetic factors. However, there are many treatments available for people to manage their epilepsy.

Individuals with epilepsy who become pregnant should work with a medical professional. With proper care, they can experience healthy pregnancy and delivery.

Read on to find out more about epilepsy and pregnancy.

There is no evidence to show that epilepsy makes it harder to get pregnant. One 2016 study compared women with and without epilepsy who were trying to get pregnant, and the researchers found no difference in conception time between the groups.

Another 2016 neurology study examined conception and pregnancy in women with and without epilepsy. It discovered no significant differences between the two groups.

People with epilepsy who wish to get pregnant can learn more by speaking with their doctor.

Individuals with epilepsy may encounter more health concerns during pregnancy. In some cases, people with the condition may experience more seizures during pregnancy because:

  • weight changes can affect how the body responds to medication
  • increased stress levels may trigger seizure events
  • hormonal changes can increase seizure risk

However, this is fairly uncommon. Approximately two-thirds of people with epilepsy do not experience increased seizures during pregnancy.

That said, consistent check-ups with a medical professional are vital — regular doctor’s visits can help reduce the risk of seizures.

There are many drugs available to treat epilepsy symptoms. Some of the most common antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) include:

  • valproic acid
  • lamotrigine
  • phenytoin
  • phenobarbital

Health experts have linked certain AEDs with certain risks during pregnancy. For example, some AEDs can increase the likelihood of neurodevelopmental disorders.

However, these risks are rare. Therefore, doctors recommend that people with epilepsy continue AED treatment during pregnancy.

Medical professionals also recommend that people with epilepsy take folic acid during pregnancy. This supplement can reduce the risk of certain congenital disabilities by up to 86% for those with the condition.

Individuals with epilepsy should consult their doctor before making any changes to their AEDs.

People with epilepsy need specialized care during pregnancy. These individuals should receive care in the following areas.

Education and counseling

Individuals with epilepsy should consult a dedicated care team during prenatal visits. This team could include an OBGYN, midwife, neurologist, and mental health counselor.

Quality education can help people with epilepsy navigate a safe and successful pregnancy. And counselors can help keep track of stress patterns to help reduce seizure risk.

Regular check-ups

Over 95% of pregnant people with epilepsy experience a healthy delivery. However, there is a small chance of certain complications.

To reduce this risk, individuals with epilepsy should have regular check-ups during pregnancy. Medical professionals can monitor the fetus to help ensure healthy development.

As with any pregnancy, consistent visits with a strong medical team are key.

The best way for people with epilepsy to prepare for pregnancy is through education. According to the advocacy group Epilepsy Foundation, learning about risk factors is the first step to managing them.

Individuals should consult their doctors about managing their AEDs. Healthcare professionals suggest taking the lowest amount of AED needed to control symptoms. Doctors can also monitor AED levels in the blood during and after pregnancy.

During pregnancy, people with epilepsy should focus on eating a balanced diet and keeping stress levels low. These steps can help support a healthy pregnancy.

Becoming a parent or caregiver with epilepsy can feel overwhelming — many might fear that their epilepsy will have a negative effect on their children.

Studies have shown that parents with epilepsy experience many of the same concerns. They may worry about:

  • a seizure preventing them from caring for their child
  • not being able to meet their own expectations as a parent
  • needing more help and support than other parents

Becoming a parent or caregiver is no easy task. All people, regardless of their health, experience similar fears before and during pregnancy.

Individuals with epilepsy may find comfort in developing plans to address their concerns. For example, they could find or start a support group for people with similar worries, or they might keep a list of phone numbers handy for moments when they need an extra hand.

Feeling anxiety and apprehension is a typical part of the parenthood journey. And while people with epilepsy may have additional concerns, with the right education and support network, both parent or caregiver and baby can thrive.

The vast majority of people with epilepsy experience routine labor and delivery. For many of these individuals, their biggest fear surrounding childbirth is having a seizure.

Studies show that 98% of people with epilepsy do not experience a seizure during the delivery process. However, the risk of serious complications during labor is generally minimal.

Of course, individuals with epilepsy should take special precautions when planning their labor and delivery. These can include:

  • choosing a medical facility equipped for patients with epilepsy
  • working with a specialized team of medical professionals
  • minimizing stressors in the delivery room

Creating a birth plan can also help minimize stress and anxiety surrounding delivery. And having sufficient education and support is crucial for any healthy labor and delivery experience.

Parents with epilepsy may worry that breastfeeding could be harmful to their babies. People who take AEDs may have concerns that their medication could harm their children.

However, research has shown that most AEDs are not harmful during breastfeeding. Therefore, doctors recommend that individuals taking AEDs continue to nurse.

Breastfeeding can also help increase bonding between the parent and child. Additionally, it improves infant nutrition and the baby’s immune system, so medical professionals recommend that people with epilepsy choose to breastfeed if possible.

Additionally, postnatal care is especially important for individuals with epilepsy. It may include:

  • regular blood tests to check medication levels
  • screening for postpartum depression
  • analyzing stress levels
  • finding nighttime support to ensure good sleep

Epilepsy may bring certain risks or concerns for many new parents and caregivers. With this in mind, working with a postnatal care team is essential for minimizing these concerns and maximizing parent and child health.

People with epilepsy may experience certain risks before, during, and after pregnancy. But with the right planning and support, they can have a healthy labor and delivery.

Individuals living with epilepsy should consult with their doctors throughout their pregnancy. Counseling and education are critical factors in their journey to parenthood.

With proper medical care and support, people with the condition can experience a positive and healthy pregnancy.