For years women who had epilepsy were discouraged from becoming pregnant and women who smoke are still encouraged to stop smoking before becoming pregnant. Does the combination of the two raise the risk for foetus?
Complications Associated with Pregnancy and Epilepsy
Women who have epilepsy have a higher risk of pregnancy complications than those who do not have the condition. These complications include anemia, increased severe morning sickness, premature separation of the placenta from the uterus, high blood pressure, vaginal bleeding during pregnancy and post partum, Protein in the urine, Pre-eclampsia, premature birth and low birth weight.
There is a risk of foetus in women who have epilepsy which is mainly due to poor seizure control. Smoking increases the risk for premature birth in all women including those with epilepsy. The combination of the risk of smoking with the risk of premature birth with epilepsy would seem to only increase the risk of foetus.
Effects on Babies born to Mother’s with Epilepsy
Mothers who have epilepsy have a slightly increased risk that their baby will develop epilepsy as the child ages. The risks of delays in development are also increased. Minor birth defects affecting the babies’ appearance are possible including a short upper lip, and wide set eyes. Due to advances in medicine and early, regular prenatal care more than 90% of women who have epilepsy are delivering healthy babies.
Preparing for Pregnancy with Epilepsy
Women who have epilepsy and intend to become pregnant should consult with their doctor. You will need to make changes in your lifestyle one of which should be to quit smoking. Other changes you should speak to your doctor about are ways in which you can get enough physical activity – you need to know the level at which you are able to exercise within safety parameters for your epilepsy. You should maintain a healthy diet, take prenatal vitamins, control stress, get adequate amounts of sleep and limit the amount of caffeine you get each day.
Many medications that are used to treat epilepsy are not healthy during pregnancy and can cause birth defects. Some women with epilepsy are able to taper off anticonvulsant medications for pregnancy, but this is not possible for all women. Your doctor can prescribe the safest dosage of a medication to manage your seizures that will be the least threatening to you and your baby. Your seizure management will be evaluated and changes made to your medications to minimize your risk of complications and of epilepsy foetus.