Issues important to women living with epilepsy

 

Our Helpline & Information Officer, Uschi Stickroth looks at issues, which are relevant and important to women living with epilepsy.

Epilepsy can affect women at any age in their lives, from childhood to puberty, during their reproductive years and pregnancy, through to menopause and later life.

Below we look at many of these epilepsy related issues experienced by women of all ages.

 

Puberty and young women

Puberty sets in when levels of hormones change in our bodies. Most girls will begin to show signs of puberty by the time they are 14.

While epilepsy usually does not affect puberty, sometimes taking anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) or having seizures can affect the production of sex hormones. This may mean that puberty starts a bit later than usual.

Always seek medical advice if you feel puberty is delayed. The change in hormone levels around puberty can also affect seizure control.

If you feel your seizures have changed, speak to your doctor, epilepsy specialist nurse or consultant.

 

Monthly periods

Some women find their seizures are linked to their periods. Seizures can happen just before your period or around the time of ovulation.

This may be due to changing levels of different hormones during your cycle.

Keeping a seizure diary along with a record of your periods can help you identify if your cycle could be a seizure trigger.

Speak to your doctor if you think there may be a link between your seizures and your periods.

 

Planning a family

If you have epilepsy, planning your pregnancy is the best way to keep you and your baby safe.

Seeking pre-pregnancy advice well in advance of becoming pregnant, if possible, can help avoid complications. The first step is to speak to your GP, consultant or epilepsy specialist nurse.

They will want to review the medication you are on and will want to bring your seizures as much as possible under control.

This will lower any potential risks to you and your baby during pregnancy and birth.

Some AEDs are best avoided in pregnancy as they could increase the risk of birth abnormalities.

If you find out you are pregnant, or think you might be, speak to your doctor or epilepsy specialist nurse as soon as possible.

Do not stop taking your medication without medical advice, as this could put you and your baby at risk.

 

Pregnancy

Most women with epilepsy will experience no problems during pregnancy and will have a healthy baby.

If you are affected by morning sickness, seek urgent medical advice. Feeling queasy or being physically sick can make it difficult for you to take your epilepsy medication. This can increase the chance of seizures.

If your seizure control changes during pregnancy speak to your doctor or epilepsy specialist.

 

epilepsy and sleep

New mothers

Being a new mum can be challenging and exhausting. If you have epilepsy, it is even more important to look after yourself and be mindful of potential seizure triggers.

Eat a healthy well-balanced diet, drink plenty of fluids and get as much sleep as you can to help you stay safe in these early months after giving birth.

Lack of sleep and disrupted sleep can be a seizure trigger for some women. If you are affected by this, seek medical advice.

Your midwife, health visitor and your family and friends can help you put some measures in place to increase your sleep.

For example, asking your partner, or a family member to bottle feed your baby during the night to allow you to sleep.

If your medication was altered during pregnancy, your epilepsy specialist may ask you to slowly return to the dose of medication you were taking before you became pregnant.

 

Menopause

Levels of hormones in our bodies change as we get older, and eventually your monthly cycles stop.

Hormones can affect the excitability of the brain and some women find that their seizures change around the time of menopause.

If your seizures are linked to your monthly cycle, you may find that you have fewer seizures after the menopause.

Some women may experience seizures for the first time. Other women experience a change in the type, frequency or length of their seizures.

If you would like a copy of our women and epilepsy factsheet, please email contact@epilepsyscotland.org.uk or a digital copy can be accessed here.

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