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Epilepsy and Pregnancy
What you need to know about pregnancy and epilepsy:
Women with epilepsy can have a safe and healthy pregnancy with careful planning. Epilepsy and epilepsy medicine may make it more difficult to become pregnant. Both may also make it difficult to manage your pregnancy. Pregnancy may cause an increase or decrease in the amount of seizures that you have. Work with your healthcare provider to decrease risks to you and your baby.
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) or have someone call if:
- You have a seizure during pregnancy.
- Your seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
- You have trouble breathing, or you stop breathing.
Seek care immediately if:
- You have a second seizure that happens within 24 hours of your first.
- You are injured during a seizure.
- After a seizure, you are confused longer than you usually are.
- You have vaginal bleeding or contractions.
- You cannot feel your baby move.
Call your neurologist or obstetrician if:
- You have trouble sleeping or managing stress.
- You have nausea or are vomiting and cannot take your medicine.
- Your seizures start to happen more often.
- You become depressed or have changes in your mood.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
How epilepsy may affect your pregnancy:
- A seizure during pregnancy can injure you or your baby. During a seizure, the level of oxygen to your baby may decrease. This may cause brain or organ damage. A seizure may also cause preterm labor, preterm birth, or miscarriage.
- Epilepsy medicine increases the risk for birth defects. When you decide to get pregnant, your healthcare provider may change your medicine or decrease the dose. This can help reduce the risk for birth defects.
- During pregnancy, your body may react differently to epilepsy medicine. The medicine may not stay in your body as long. This may increase your risk for a seizure. Your dose may be changed multiple times during pregnancy.
Self-care during pregnancy:
- Take your epilepsy medicine every day at the same time. Do not skip a dose. Correct use of your medicine will lower your risk for a seizure during pregnancy.
- Take folic acid and prenatal vitamins as directed. Epilepsy medicine may decrease the amount of folic acid in your body. Folic acid is important because it may decrease your baby's risks for birth defects. You will need to take folic acid before you get pregnant. You will need to continue for the first 3 months of your pregnancy. You may need a larger dose in the first 3 months of pregnancy.
- Keep all appointments for blood tests. Blood tests will help your healthcare provider decide what dose of epilepsy medicine you need. The right dose will prevent seizures and birth defects. Your healthcare provider may need to change the dose of your medicine often during your pregnancy.
- Get prenatal screening as directed. Regular ultrasounds will help monitor your baby. You may need other tests to check for problems with your baby's heart or nervous system. These problems can be caused by epilepsy or epilepsy medicine. These tests will help your healthcare provider create safe labor, delivery, and care plans.
- Do not drink alcohol or use drugs. This may harm your baby and increase your risk for seizures.
- Get plenty of rest. A lack of sleep may increase your risk for a seizure. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same times every day. Take naps throughout the day if you feel tired. Ask family or friends for help with other small children or chores. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have trouble sleeping.
- Manage your stress during pregnancy. Too much stress can trigger a seizure. Meditate, do prenatal yoga, or do any activity that helps you relax. Talk to your healthcare provider if you need help to manage stress.
Ask your healthcare provider if it safe to breastfeed your baby. Some epilepsy medicines are released from the body through breast milk. Your baby may be exposed to epilepsy medicine. The medicine may make your baby more sleepy than normal. Your healthcare provider may change your dose while you are breastfeeding. Breast milk may prevent infections or learning problems in your baby. These benefits may outweigh the risks of breastfeeding your baby while you take epilepsy medicine.
Follow up with your neurologist and obstetrician as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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