Pregnancy Spotlight: Epilepsy During Pregnancy

Every day, our nurses and attorneys receive calls from expectant mothers with concerns about symptoms they’re experiencing during their pregnancy. They’re curious if their symptoms are normal, and they wonder what their next steps should be. Patients should always visit a medical professional with concerns like these and receive appropriate care for maternal-fetal conditions and illnesses that can arise during pregnancy. We kickstarted the Pregnancy Spotlight Series, a monthly column that highlights specific pregnancy health concerns, to empower patients in contacting their medical providers.  Today, we’re focusing on Epilepsy During Pregnancy.

Epilepsy is a chronic central nervous system disorder characterized by recurrent seizures, sensations, periods of unusual behavior, and/or loss of consciousness. The symptoms of these seizures vary from person to person. Some people have twitching limbs, while others do not. Just having one seizure on its own does not mean that someone has epilepsy. The disorder specifically applies to those with recurrent seizures with unknown cause.

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, “Since the treatment of seizures depends on an accurate diagnosis, making sure that a person has epilepsy and knowing what kind is a critical first step.”

Signs and Symptoms of Epilepsy

Pregnancy Spotlight Vol. V | Epilepsy During Pregnancy If you think you might have epilepsy, but aren’t certain, it is important to know the signs and symptoms and talk with your doctor about a potential epilepsy diagnosis. Common symptoms of epilepsy include:

  • Staring spells
  • Uncontrollable, jerking movements in arms and legs
  • Temporary confusion
  • Loss of awareness or consciousness
  • Fainting
  • Headache
  • Memory loss

What Does Epilepsy Look Like During Pregnancy?

One of the most important aspects of epilepsy during pregnancy is how epilepsy anticonvulsant medications may potentially impact the pregnancy. Most doctors advise talking with them if you have epilepsy and are planning to get pregnant, because they will discuss your different medication options. Be sure to speak with your doctor as soon as possible if you are pregnant and have epilepsy.

About ⅓ to ½ of women with epilepsy will experience more frequent seizures during pregnancy as a result of epilepsy medications operating differently in the body during pregnancy. Nausea during pregnancy also can cause the medications to be thrown up prior to being processed in the body.

How Can Epilepsy Affect my Baby?

Epilepsy during pregnancy might negatively affect the baby if seizures occur or are not properly monitored and treated by healthcare professionals during pregnancy.

Discuss your medications with your doctor. Do not stop taking medications (such as anti-seizure medications)  without the consultation of a medical professional.

How Can I Help Reduce the Risks of Epilepsy During Pregnancy?

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, women who take certain supplements, including folate, multivitamins, and Vitamin K may reduce risks for their babies. Discuss the use of prenatal vitamins with your doctor before starting on a vitamin regimen.

Related Resources


The information presented above is intended only to be a general educational resource. It is not intended to be (and should not be interpreted as) medical advice. If you have questions about the topic, please consult with a medical professional.

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