Epilepsy is the most common neurological disorder I see in pregnancy, affecting approximately 1-in-200 women. Migraine is also common. Less frequent neurological disorders in pregnancy include multiple sclerosis (1-in-1,000), myasthenia gravis (1-in-10,000) and women with a previous stroke (1-in-25,000).
What effect can epilepsy & neurological disorders have on my pregnancy?
Epilepsy does not increase the risk of pregnancy complications unless the mother develops a prolonged seizure. Some women see an improvement in the frequency of seizures during pregnancy, while others notice a worsening. The highest risk time is around labour and in the first 24 hours post-partum.
The main risk in pregnancy relates to the type of anti-seizure medication you are taking at the time of conception. All anti-epileptic medications cross the placenta and many of the commonly used medications increase the risk of certain developmental problems for your baby (such as spina bifida, heart defects, cleft lip and palate). It is very important that women take high-dose folic acid supplements and change to the most appropriate medication before getting pregnant, to minimise any risk.
Migraine and multiple sclerosis do not cause pregnancy complications; in many cases, women with these conditions will notice an improvement in their symptoms while pregnant.
Myasthenia gravis can increase the risk of preterm delivery and fetal growth restriction. There is also a small risk of neonatal myasthenia, whereby the baby is floppy and has difficulty feeding after delivery.
Have you looked after women like me before?
Yes, I have looked after lots of pregnant women with a variety of neurological disorders, from epilepsy to previous stroke.
I’m familiar with all the common anti-epileptic medications and their particular risks in pregnant women. I will work with your neurologist to find the most “pregnancy-friendly” medication suitable for you. I can also perform the advanced obstetric scans you will need to check for any medication effects on your baby.
As always, this information is intended for general educational purposes only. It is not medical advice. Please discuss any medical issues with your own doctor. Read our full medical disclaimer here.