CNS Drugs

, Volume 20, Issue 5, pp 373–387 | Cite as

Management of Epilepsy in Women of Childbearing Age

Practical Recommendations
Therapy In Practice


Women with epilepsy should not be discouraged from becoming pregnant as the likelihood of having a healthy baby is very high. However, in such women, early and individualised counselling about pregnancy and contraception is essential. Ideally, pregnancies should be planned, folic acid (5 mg/day) given and antiepileptic drug (AED) treatment optimised well before conception to ensure that the lowest dosage that controls seizures is administered. When initiating AEDs in a woman of childbearing age, the most appropriate drug for the seizure type and syndrome should be chosen, although it is preferable to avoid valproate, because of a possible elevated risk of fetal malformations, when equi-effective agents are available for a given syndrome.

In women who become pregnant while taking AEDs, fetal monitoring should include high-resolution ultrasonography before week 20 and measurement of serum α-fetoprotein levels. Amniocentesis is not routinely indicated. The measurement of blood concentrations of AEDs can be useful to ensure that the lowest possible maintenance dosage is being used, especially for those drugs whose pharmacokinetics are likely to change during pregnancy. Breastfeeding should be encouraged whatever the treatment administered.



No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this review. The author has no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this review.


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© Adis Data Information BV 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Klinik für NeurologieKantonsspitalSt GallenSwitzerland

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