5 Things Women Need to Know About Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a condition that can affect both men and women, but there are special considerations for women diagnosed with epilepsy. Here are five things you need to know:
- Some anti-seizure medications can interact with birth control
Certain anti-seizure medications are affected by hormone levels and may be less effective when combined with birth control. Some medications can also make birth control less effective, so it may not provide the same protection against preventing pregnancy. It is very important for you to let your doctor know if you start or stop a birth control or hormone treatment and discuss your options with them.
- Some women have seizures related to their menstrual cycle.
Seizures that are linked to your menstrual cycle are known as catamenial epilepsy. Women with catamenial epilepsy often have more seizures during a certain point in their cycle and may experience this before or during their period. Keeping a seizure record on a calendar and tracking your menstrual cycle can help to identify a pattern to see if your seizures may be related. If so, there are specific treatments that may be more effective for this type of epilepsy.
- Women with epilepsy should take folic acid supplements
The Center for Disease Control recommends that all women of childbearing age take folic acid every day to reduce the risk of birth defects. This is especially important for women with epilepsy as certain seizure medications can increase your risk of having a child with a birth defect. Before beginning a folic acid supplement, you should ask your doctor about the specific dose they recommend for you based on what anti-seizure medication you are taking.
- There are safe (and not-so-safe) options for anti-seizure medications to use while pregnant and breastfeeding.
If you are currently pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, you should speak with your doctor about which anti-seizure medication is right for you. Some anti-seizure medications have a higher risk of birth defects, but several medications have been studied and known to be safe through pregnancy and breastfeeding.
It is important not to self-discontinue your seizure medications if you do become pregnant. Some women are concerned about the risk of medications to a fetus but having uncontrolled seizures while pregnant is also dangerous for the baby and the pregnant person.
- Women with epilepsy may experience more significant bone loss around menopause.
Around menopause, almost all women begin to experience some degree of bone loss. However, this condition can be worse in women with epilepsy as some anti-epileptic drugs can increase that risk. There are preventative measures you can take to lessen your risk of bone loss, like getting enough calcium and vitamin, incorporating weight training into your fitness routine and avoiding risk factors like alcohol use and smoking.