Pregnant women with epilepsy warned about treatment for condition

Women who are pregnant and suffering from epilepsy have been warned that some treatments for the condition may have adverse effects on the brain development of their unborn babies.

A drug review recently published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews has stated that women should be told about alternative treatment options so that they are already well informed about their options by the time that they fall pregnant.

Many pregnancies in the UK are unplanned, and women should be counselled and told about the balance between their own individual needs in regards to epilepsy treatment, and the neurodevelopment of their unborn child.

A research team behind the drug review analysed the results of 28 separate studies and the individual development of children born to women with epilepsy and their prenatal exposure to the most commonly-prescribed anti-epilepsy drugs.

By analysing children’s IQ and developmental progress in three separate groups: women with epilepsy who took anti-epilepsy medication during their pregnancy with the child, those with epilepsy who didn’t take anti-epilepsy medication and women who did not have epilepsy at all.

Results of the study showed that the children of women who took high doses of anti-epilepsy drugs had lower IQ and developmental progress than those who didn’t. However, despite this result, scientists advised women with epilepsy to continue with their medication and treatment whilst with child because uncontrolled seizures could also pose a bigger risk to the baby.

Kathy Bairstow is a senior advice and information services officer for the patient charity, Epilepsy Action, said; “Pregnancy can be a huge issue for women with epilepsy and can be quite difficult in cases where the drugs are the only thing that control your seizures with the fewest side effects. Women will often be guided by their epilepsy specialist or nurse and it’s really important that they get pre-conception counselling.”

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