Women who have epilepsy are just as likely to achieve a successful pregnancy as other women of childbearing potential, according to a new study.
The research, conducted between 2010 and 2015 at New York University, and presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s recent annual meeting, recruited women aged 18 to 41 years who were a) trying to get pregnant and b) had stopped all contraception a less than six months earlier. Electronic diaries were used to monitor the women’s seizure patterns and use of anti-epileptic drugs, along with key information about their sexual activity and menstrual cycles. Subjects were assessed throughout the duration of any eventual pregnancies.
A total of 89 women with epilepsy and 109 women who did not have epilepsy enrolled in the study. The latter acted as a control group, a representation of the ‘general’ population. There was no difference between the groups in terms of average age, body mass index score or demographic background, which was important to ensure that the presence or absence of epilepsy was the only variable being assessed.
During the course of the study 70% of the women with epilepsy achieved pregnancy, compared to 67.1% of the control group. The average time to pregnancy was found to be 6.03 months for the women with epilepsy and 9.05 months for the controls. In total, 81.8% of women with epilepsy who became pregnant had a live birth, compared to 80% of controls, and the rate of miscarriage was not increased in the epilepsy group.
These findings are important because previous studies have indicated that infertility rates may be up to two to three times higher for women with epilepsy, although a comprehensive study to confirm these assumptions has not been carried out before now.
Dr Jacqueline French, Professor of Neurology and Director of Translational Research and Clinical Trials at NYU Langone’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, said: “We hope our findings reassure women with epilepsy and clinicians who are counselling these women on family planning.”
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