New national guidelines have recommended that pregnant women with epilepsy should be treated by a specialist healthcare team to prevent unnecessary deaths.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) warned that pregnancy can be a difficult time for women if they’re having to manage seizure control, tiredness and risks linked to some epilepsy medicines can make pregnancy a difficult time.
However there is a risk associated with taking anti-epileptic drugs during pregnancy, such as sodium valproate, which may lead to some women reducing their medication intake or cutting it out completely which can make seizures worse and increasing the risk of harm to the mother and her baby.
The RCOG guidelines, for GP’s, midwives, consultants and women with the condition, say women should:
– Seek advice from their GP before conception
– Be given the lowest effective dose of the most appropriate epilepsy medication
– Take a higher dose of folic acid to reduce the risk of spinal defects in their baby
– Give birth in a consultant-led unit if at risk of seizures during labour
– Receive support after the birth to minimise the risk of seizures during labour
It is important to know that women with epilepsy are classified as high risk during their pregnancy and recently statistics have shown that around 2500 babies are born to women with epilepsy each year in the UK, meaning they require specialist care during the course of their pregnancy, however a high percentage of women with epilepsy will give birth safely.