What precautions should pregnant women who have epilepsy take?

Women who have seizures can have healthy children, as long as they receive good prenatal care. It is very important that women who have epilepsy discuss pregnancy with their doctors BEFORE getting pregnant. All women of child-bearing age who have epilepsy should take a multivitamin containing folic acid every day, because some epilepsy medicines drain the body of important vitamins.

Many seizure medicines can prevent birth control pills from working effectively, which might lead to unplanned pregnancy. If a woman becomes pregnant unexpectedly, she should NOT stop taking her seizure medicine without first talking to her doctor. Suddenly stopping seizure medicine commonly leads to more frequent seizures, which can also harm the baby.

The frequency of seizures usually does not change a great deal during pregnancy. Medicine blood levels should be checked often; levels gradually go down during pregnancy, and reach their lowest level around the time of delivery, which might result in breakthrough seizures. All seizures that occur during pregnancy should be reported to your doctor. Women should NEVER discontinue seizure medicines without consulting their doctors.

Most pregnant women with epilepsy have normal vaginal deliveries, although cesarean sections (removal of the baby through an incision made in the abdomen) must be done in some cases.

Women who take seizure medicines can breast feed their infants. Some medicines can cause babies to become very sleepy and irritable after feedings. If these effects occur, stop breast feeding until you talk to your doctor.

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