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Neurol India. 2011 Jan-Feb;59(1):59-65. doi: 10.4103/0028-3886.76860.

Managing epilepsy in pregnancy.

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  • 1Kerala Registry of Epilepsy and Pregnancy, Department of Neurology, Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology, Trivandrum, India.


There are close to one and half million women with epilepsy (WWE) in reproductive age group in India. WWE have several unique gender-specific problems in the biological and social domains. Women experience more social stigma from epilepsy and have more difficulty with education and employment. They have more difficulty to get married and sustain successful family life. Reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone have opposing effect on seizure threshold. WWE have increased risk of infertility. About 10% of their babies may have major congenital malformations. Most of the adverse biological outcomes for WWE are related to adverse effects of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). Traditional AEDs like phenobarbitone and sodium valproate are probably associated with increased risk of fetal malformations or other adverse fetal outcomes. Polytherapy and use of high dose of any AED is associated with higher risk fetal complications. It is very important that all WWE have a preconception evaluation done by a neurologist, when the need to continue AEDs or possibility of reducing AED load could be assessed. All WWE need to take folic acid 5 mg daily during preconception period and pregnancy. They should undergo a detailed screening for fetal malformations between 12 and 18 weeks of pregnancy. The neurologist, gynecologist, imageologist and pediatrician need to work as a team while managing pregnancy in WWE. It is important to reassure WWE and their relatives that pregnancy is safe in WWE and their children are healthy in more than 90% instances.

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