Being a mum header

    Pregnancy and being a mum

    Fast facts

    1. 1
      If you want to be a parent, your epilepsy should not stop you
    2. 2
      Some contraception is less effective with some epilepsy medicines
    3. 3
      Some women with epilepsy have a slightly higher risk of reduced fertility than women who don’t have epilepsy
    4. 4
      If you want to start a family it’s really good idea to plan this in advance. Your epilepsy doctor may think it’s a good idea for you to change medicines. This would have to happen slowly
    5. 5
      Some epilepsy medicines are more safe during pregnancy than others. Some epilepsy medicines can cause birth defects
    6. 6
      If you have uncontrolled seizures you will need to think especially carefully about safety and support. Epilepsy Action has information to help

    Important!

    Valproate medicines can seriously harm an unborn baby

    Valproate medicines include sodium valproate (Epilim, Episenta, Epival, Depakote) and valproic acid (Convulex).

    In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has issued rules about prescribing valproate medicines. These rules say doctors must not prescribe valproate to women or girls of childbearing potential, unless it is the only medicine that will work.

    Valproate medicines

    If you are being prescribed a valproate medicine and there is the potential for getting pregnant, your doctor will ask you to enrol on a pregnancy prevention programme (PPP). This could be even if you’re not having sex with a man. The programme requires you signing a form to:

    The Epilepsy Action website has more information about valproate medicines

     

    Some other medicines also have a risk of birth defects but research shows the risk is lower than valproate medicines. There’s more information on the Epilepsy Action website about epilepsy medicines in pregnancy 

    Top tips

    1

    Because some epilepsy medicines can be harmful to unborn babies, it is always best to avoid unplanned pregnancy if at all possible

    2

    If you’re planning a pregnancy, make an appointment with your epilepsy nurse or doctor for pre-conception counselling

    3

    Talk to your epilepsy doctor about the best way to limit your seizures during pregnancy

    4

    Talk to your healthcare team about a birth plan to reduce the risk of having seizures during delivery

    5

    All women are recommended to take folic acid before and during pregnancy. Women taking epilepsy medicines should take a higher dose

    If you get pregnant, whether you’ve planned it or not, don’t stop taking your epilepsy medicine unless your doctor tells you to. Stopping epilepsy medicine suddenly could make you have more frequent or more severe seizures, and could even put your life at risk.

    Watch

    • Can we have children?

      A short video by Norsk Epilepsiforbund

    • Epilepsy and pregnancy

      By The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust

    If your GP is providing your epilepsy care and you think you need to see a specialist during pregnancy, ask for referral to a neurologist. You can ask your GP, midwife or obstetrician to refer you. How epilepsy care is provided for pregnant women may vary depending on where you live.

    Practical parenting tips

    Stories by you

    Read Ally’s thoughts about becoming a parent.

    Read Abbie’s experience of becoming pregnant.

    Abbie writes about being pregnant.

    Read Abbie’s tips for looking after a baby when you have epilepsy.

    Read

    Epilepsy, pregnancy, motherhood and me

    A blog by Faye about her experience of pregnancy and being a mum

    Do something

    Write down any thoughts or concerns you have about how your epilepsy might affect becoming a mum. You could discuss them with your epilepsy nurse or doctor at your next appointment.

    Young woman writing in notebook

    More info

    Epilepsy and pregnancy register

    Pregnancy register

    More info on the Epilepsy Action website about contraception

    Contraception

    More info on the Epilepsy Action website about periods and fertility

    Periods and fertility

    More info on the Epilepsy Action website about epilepsy medicines in pregnancy

    Medicines in pregnancy

    More info on the Epilepsy Action website about planning a pregnancy

    Planning a pregnancy

    More info about valproate medicines on the Epilepsy Action website

    Valproate medicines

    The Women with epilepsy website has more information about pregnancy including a shared care toolkit for women and health professionals

    Care toolkit

    More tips for caring for children on the Epilepsy Action website

    Caring for children

    My Mum has epilepsy – Stories for parents to explain epilepsy to their children on the Epilepsy Action website

     

    Stories for children
    Updated 12 May 2020
    Review 12 May 2023
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