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Epilepsia. 2011 Oct;52(10):1843-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1167.2011.03194.x. Epub 2011 Jul 14.

Variation of seizure frequency with ovulatory status of menstrual cycles.

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Harvard Neuroendocrine Unit, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



To determine if seizure frequency differs between anovulatory and ovulatory cycles.


The data came from the 3-month baseline phase of an investigation of progesterone therapy for intractable focal onset seizures. Of 462 women who enrolled, 281 completed the 3-month baseline phase and 92 had both anovulatory and ovulatory cycles during the baseline phase. Midluteal progesterone levels ≥5 ng/ml were used to designate cycles as ovulatory. Among the 92 women, average daily seizure frequency (ADSF) for all seizures combined and each type of seizure considered separately (secondary generalized tonic-clonic seizures - 2°GTCS, complex partial seizures - CPS, simple partial seizures - SPS) were compared between anovulatory and ovulatory cycles using paired t-tests. A relationship between the proportional differences in ADSF and estradiol/progesterone (EP) serum level ratios between anovulatory and ovulatory cycles was determined using bivariate correlational analysis.


ADSF was 29.5% greater for 2°GTCS during anovulatory than during ovulatory cycles. ADSF did not differ significantly for CPS or SPS or for all seizures combined. Proportional differences in anovulatory/ovulatory 2°GTCS ADSF ratios correlated significantly with differences in anovulatory/ovulatory EP ratios. Among the 281 women, the three seizure types did not differ in ovulatory rates, but EP ratios were greater for cycles with 2°GTCS than partial seizures only.


Seizure frequency is significantly greater for 2°GTCS, but not CPS or SPS, during anovulatory cycles than ovulatory cycles. Because the proportional increases in 2°GTCS frequency during anovulatory cycles correlate with the proportional increases in EP level ratios, these findings support a possible role for reproductive steroids in 2°GTCS occurrence.

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