Ideally, women with epilepsy should discuss their individual situation with their GP prior to becoming pregnant. Epilepsy and the medication used to control it do carry some risks during pregnancy, but there are ways to help minimise them and yes you will have consultant led care and support from a specialist endocrine doctor during your pregnancy.
It is believed that some anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) are more harmful to a developing baby than others, so your GP may wish to change your medication before you actually become pregnant. However, taking any type of AEDs does increase the risk of certain birth defects, so you will probably be offered extra scans during pregnancy. The aim would be for you to be taking as few AEDs as possible, but still have your seizures under control. Remember though, that most women taking AEDs have perfectly healthy babies.
Anti-epileptic drugs can also stop your body from absorbing enough folic acid. As you may know, folic acid should be taken before pregnancy and during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. It can help reduce the risk of an unborn baby developing neural tube defects such as spina bifida. You will need to take a higher dose – your GP will advise you.
Once your baby is born, you will generally be advised to breastfeed if at all possible – any risk to the baby from AEDs is outweighed by the many health benefits of breast milk. 1,2
1Barret and Richens 2003:”Epilepsy and Pregnancy: Report of an Epilepsy Research Foundation Workshop”
2British Brain and Spine Foundation 2006: “Epilepsy: A guide for patients and carers”