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Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2010 Nov;107(45):787-93. doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2010.0787. Epub 2010 Nov 12.

The treatment of women with epilepsy.

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Klinikum der Universität München - Großhadern, München, Germany.



Women with epilepsy and their doctors are often unsure of the implications of the disease and the limitations it causes. There is a major need for counseling.


Selective review of the literature as of November 2009.


Recommendations on pregnancy and childbearing for women with epilepsy can be found in the guidelines issued by the German Societies of Neurology and Epileptology and by the American Epilepsy Society. Only low-level evidence is available on other relevant questions, including contraception, the influence of hormones on epilepsy, and the influence of antiepileptic drugs on endocrine and bone metabolism, because of a lack of controlled studies. Polycystic ovarian syndrome is more commonly seen in women with epilepsy who take valproate. Antiepileptic drugs that induce CYP3a can diminish the efficacy of oral contraceptives; conversely, oral contraceptives can markedly lower the blood levels of antiepileptic drugs. According to the most recent studies, the risk of congenital malformations and spontaneous abortions is 1% to 2% in the normal population and 3% to 9% in the offspring of women with epilepsy who are taking antiepileptic drugs. Women with epilepsy who want to have children are currently advised to take folic acid prophylactically starting before conception and until the end of the first trimester. New mothers with epilepsy are advised to breastfeed their children.


Proper treatment and counseling of women with epilepsy, with due attention to aspects that are specific to women patients, can reduce the limitations to which they are subject in everyday life.

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