, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp 348-355

Managing Epilepsy During Pregnancy: Assessing Risk and Optimizing Care

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Opinion statement

Epilepsy is the most common neurologic condition found in pregnancy. As such, all neurologists, internists, and obstetricians should know how to counsel women with epilepsy as they are considering pregnancy. While all of the usual recommendations for women of childbearing potential apply, including preconceptual and ongoing use of folic acid, calcium, and vitamin D, additional consideration must be given to the need for adjustment or change of anticonvulsant therapy. Monotherapy with the lowest dose of medication needed to control seizures should be prescribed prior to conception. Most anticonvulsants have a favorable profile when used in pregnancy; older anticonvulsants such as valproate and carbamazepine should be avoided, as they are associated with higher rates of fetal malformation, and in the case of valproate, with proven cognitive deficits in children exposed to this medication in utero. With use of any anticonvulsant medication, dosing throughout pregnancy will need to be adjusted to maintain an appropriate serum concentration. Dosing of anticonvulsants needs to be decreased after delivery to avoid medication-related toxicity, although sleep deprivation and hormonal fluctuation can increase the risk of seizures in postpartum women. With proper management, the majority of women with epilepsy can have uneventful pregnancies and healthy babies.