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sex, drugs and social life

Are you a girl or woman of childbearing age and are taking, or have taken, the epilepsy drug sodium valproate?
We are re-launching our survey to find out how aware women are of the potential risks around sodium valproate, if taken during pregnancy. 
Even if you are taking a different drug, please fill in our survey

Sex and relationships

It's not unusual for people to worry about their sex life, whether they have epilepsy or not. Getting close to someone else can be great but it can also leave you feeling vulnerable. What if they go off me? What if something embarrassing happens? Do I tell them about my epilepsy?

You may worry about having a seizure during sex, but it is usually no more likely than having a seizure at any other time.

Going out with someone who you can really talk to and who understands your epilepsy can be great. Sometimes it can be helpful for you to find out how they feel about your epilepsy too. See more about relationships and sex.

The charity Brook offers free and confidential sexual health advice for under 25s.

Contraception

Having safe sex protects you and your partner against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). There are lots of different contraceptive methods available.

For girls and women with epilepsy some AEDs can affect how well 'the pill' works and can increase the risk of getting pregnant. And 'the pill' can affect how some AEDs work. See more about contraception and epilepsy.

You can talk to your epilepsy doctor or a family planning advisor about the combination of AEDs and contraception that is best for you. If you are taking sodium valproate (Epilim, Episenta, Epival) it is especially important that you talk to your epilepsy doctor, and that you have effective contraception.

The Family Planning Association (FPA) can give you more information about safe sex.

Epilepsy and alcohol - do they mix?

Drinking alcohol is a personal choice, but for some people with epilepsy, alcohol makes their seizures worse. Having epilepsy doesn't necessarily mean you can't have a drink, but it is important to be careful with alcohol for the following reasons:

  • Alcohol disrupts your sleep. Seizures can be triggered by tiredness for many people, so poor sleep makes seizures more likely to happen.
  • Drinking alcohol can trigger seizures for some people; not always while they're actually drinking. Often it's later during a hangover when your brain is dehydrated that seizures happen. Drinking water in between alcoholic drinks can help reduce the chances of a hangover.
  • Vomiting (being sick) may reduce the level of anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) in your system, so they may not work so well to control your seizures.
  • AEDs can increase the the effects of alcohol and alcohol can make some of the side effects of AEDs worse. The information leaflet that comes with your drugs should say if alcohol is not recommended. You could ask your doctor or pharmacist if you are not sure.

Drugs

Just because you're young it doesn't mean that you are interested in taking illegal drugs. But maybe you're more likely to think about it at this age. You might already know quite a bit about drugs and the risks of taking them or you may have made a decision about what you'll do if you're offered drugs.

Taking cannabis, ecstasy, speed, cocaine and other recreational drugs can all increase the chance of having a seizure. Frank has more information about drugs.

Going out

Having a good time when you go out is important. But for some people a party lifestyle can make seizures more likely to happen,

Seizures can be triggered by being tired from late nights, alcohol or drugs. Finding a balance, and working out what affects your epilepsy can be helpful. Friends can also help you have a great time, if they know what you can handle.

Once my friends knew what to do when I had a seizure, I could relax more when I went out. They felt better about it too.

Know your triggers

Download our free smartphone app containing a seizure diary to help you monitor your triggers. Available for iPhone and Android phones.

Taken from our Your epilepsy - now and next leaflet. Order this leaflet from our online shop as part of our 'first five free' offer.

This information was reviewed by Professor Matthias Koepp, Professor of Neurology, University College London and Epilepsy Society. Epilepsy Society is also grateful to the young people who helped develop this information.