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17 February 2016

Study calls for evidence-based contraception guidelines for women with epilepsy

A study found that 30 per cent of women with epilepsy did not use highly effective contraception though they are at an increased risk of having babies with foetal malformations due to their antiepileptic medication. Findings from the study are published in Epilepsia.


Using cross-sectional data from the Epilepsy Birth Control Registry (EBCR) web-based survey organised by doctors from Harvard and Columbia University Medical School, study authors analysed 1,144 women with epilepsy aged 18 to 47 years. They looked at the frequency of highly effective contraception use, defined as having a failure rate  of less than 10 per cent per year, and identified predictors of highly effective contraception use. 

Of the women with epilepsy at risk of unintended pregnancy, nearly 70 per cent used highly effective contraception, the study found.  Demographic groups deemed likely to use highly effective contraception were Caucasian women, women aged between 38 and 47, and those who were insured.

Consultation with neurologist

Only 25 per cent of the women who have a neurologist were found to have consulted them about contraception choices.

The study findings encourage the need for development of evidence-based guidelines that address safety and efficacy of contraceptive methods in women with epilepsy and for increased dialogue between neurologists and their epilepsy patients regarding contraception.