Postpartum Management in Women with Epilepsy

Treatment for epileptic mothers does not stop after giving birth. Careful monitoring of antiepileptic drug (AED) levels should be performed after delivery. Continued medication after pregnancy is especially important, because proper treatment now influences proper care for the newborn.

The risk of seizure while attending to a newborn is significant. For example, parents are often advised to change and feed their infants while sitting in secure, protective areas.

Also, there is a chance that, as a result of AEDs taken during pregnancy, an infant will experience sedation as well as withdrawal symptoms for the first few weeks of life. Although alarming, symptoms are usually temporary and pose no significant medical problem, unless they prevent the baby from receiving adequate nutrition.

Breastfeeding & Epilepsy

Antiepileptic drugs do show up in fairly low levels in breast milk, some higher than others, but pose no serious health threat to a nursing baby. However, physicians often advise caution for mothers who have been treated with certain AEDs that tend to remain at higher levels in breast milk. Generally, mothers with epilepsy can expect to breastfeed their babies without complication, though counseling with an obstetrician is advised.

Epilepsy & Inheritance

Because the causes for most types of seizure disorder are varied, the occurrence of epilepsy in children born to epileptic parents varies. Children whose mothers have epilepsy have about a 3% chance of getting the disease. If just the father is affected by epilepsy, the risk is the same as it is for anyone in the general public. If both parents are epileptic, the risk rises to approximately 5%.

Often, those who suffer from epilepsy gain an advanced knowledge of their disease as a result of planning a pregnancy. Certainly, preconception planning is just as important as the 9 months that follow. With the assistance of a physician, women with epilepsy can experience a healthy pregnancy and childbirth.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published:

Last Modified: 05 Aug 2011