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20 June 2016

Epilepsy Society welcomes new guideline on epilepsy and pregnancy

Epilepsy Society has welcomed news of the first guideline on epilepsy and pregnancy for both healthcare professionals and women with the condition.

The new document aims to provide clarity about the condition, one of the most common neurological conditions in pregnancy. It offers advice on anti-epileptic drugs during pregnancy, supplements and support for new mothers.

Healthy babies

Professor Ley Sander, medical director at Epilepsy Society said: 'The new guideline is very timely. Every year around 2,500 women with epilepsy have a baby and the majority will enjoy a normal pregnancy and birth, unchanged seizures and more than a 90 per cent chance of having a healthy baby.

'However, pregnancy can present specific challenges and it is important for all women with epilepsy to seek the advice of their epilepsy specialist, ideally before conceiving a baby but certainly as soon as they know they are pregnant.

'It is important for women to make sure their midwife and delivery team are aware of their epilepsy and any medication that they are taking. It is also important to discuss individual seizure triggers such as pain, tiredness and over breathing.'

Epilepsy specialist care

Professor Sander said that the guideline underlined the need for better access to epilepsy specialists and greater epilepsy awareness among healthcare professionals. 'There is only one epilepsy specialist midwife in England and not everyone has access to an epilepsy specialist nurse,' he continued. 'Any young woman who is planning to start a family should make it a priority to discuss medication and seizure control with her neurologist.'

The guideline has been produced by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and is accredited by NICE - the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

Professor Alan Cameron, RCOG's vice president for clinical quality, said: 'Care of pregnant women with epilepsy has remained fragmented over recent years.

'This is the first ever national guideline on epilepsy and pregnancy and we hope it will support healthcare professionals to ensure that women receive the appropriate counselling before, during and after pregnancy and are aware of the risks to themselves and their baby and the benefits of appropriate treatment.

'Such a strategy will empower women to make informed decisions about their care during pregnancy with the support from a specialist team.'

Between 2009 and 2013, 21 British women died during pregnancy as a result of epilepsy. In the majority of cases, the deaths occurred because seizures were poorly controlled. Women were often not given any pre-conception counselling and were not cared for by an epilepsy nurse or specialist during their pregnancies.

Find out more

You can read the new guideline here
Read more about pregnancy and parenting.

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