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Epilepsy During The Childbearing Years


Epilepsy and epilepsy medicine can affect your ability to prevent or become pregnant. You may have more seizures during certain phases of your menstrual cycle. This is caused by an increase or decrease in certain female sex hormones. Female sex hormones may also decrease how well epilepsy medicines work. The risk for birth defects increases if you take certain epilepsy medicines or take more than one type of epilepsy medicine.


Have someone else call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
  • You have trouble breathing or stop breathing.

Return to the emergency department 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 after a seizure when you are not expecting your period.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your seizures happen more often.
  • You become depressed or have changes in your mood.
  • You are planning to get pregnant or think you are pregnant.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Birth control methods and antiepileptic medicine:

Talk to your healthcare provider if you want to use birth control to prevent pregnancy. Some types of epilepsy medicine decrease how well hormonal birth control works. He may tell you to use a second form of birth control if you take hormonal birth control. The use of 2 birth control methods may decrease your risk for pregnancy. The following birth control methods may prevent pregnancy while you take antiseizure medicine:

  • An intrauterine device or implant that releases progestin
  • An injection of birth control
  • Barrier methods such as condoms, diaphragms, and spermicides

Manage your epilepsy during your childbearing years:

  • Take your birth control medicine at the same time every day to prevent pregnancy. Set an alarm on your phone to help remind you. Do not stop taking your birth control medicine without talking to your healthcare provider. Use a second form of birth control if you miss one or more doses of your birth control medicine. A second form of birth control includes condoms, spermicides, or diaphragms.
  • Keep track of your menstrual cycle. If you have more seizures during certain phases of your menstrual cycle, your healthcare provider may change your medicine. He may also tell you to take more medicine during this phase of your menstrual cycle.
  • Get good control of your epilepsy before you decide to get pregnant. Good control of your epilepsy for 9 months before you get pregnant may decrease your risk for seizures during pregnancy. Manage stress and other medical conditions. Identify and avoid triggers of your seizures. Take your epilepsy medicine every day as directed. Ask your healthcare provider not to start any new medicine immediately before you try to get pregnant.

Before you get pregnant:

Talk to your healthcare provider before you try to get pregnant. Careful planning is important to prevent harm to you or your baby.

  • Your epilepsy medicine may need to be stopped or changed before you try to get pregnant.
  • Epilepsy medicine decreases the amount of folic acid in your body. You may need to take folic acid before you get pregnant. Folic acid may prevent birth defects.
  • Epilepsy and epilepsy medicine may cause polycystic ovarian syndrome or early menopause. These conditions may make it more difficult to get pregnant. You may also have a decreased interest in sex. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have difficulty getting pregnant.

Follow up with your healthcare provider 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.