A new study has highlighted the need for women with epilepsy to be provided with more tailored advice on the use of contraception.
Effective contraception is particularly important in women with epilepsy, particularly because exposure to antiepileptic drugs can sometimes cause foetal development issues and birth abnormalities.
The research, led by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and Columbia University in New York, collected information on the contraceptive practices of women with epilepsy in the community, via the Epilepsy Birth Control Registry (EBCR) – a web-based survey.
Data for 1,144 women between the ages of 18 and 47 was collated, which included details about their epilepsy, antiepileptic drug (AED) history, socioeconomic status and contraceptive use. The researchers analysed this information to see if they could find particular characteristics among the women that were associated with the effective use of contraception. They were also interested in exploring the reasons why particular contraceptive methods were chosen.
According to the results, published in the medical journal Epilepsia, 796 women in the cohort were at risk of unintended pregnancy. Of these, 69.7% said they used forms of contraception generally considered to be highly effective (e.g. hormonal, IUD/coil, vasectomy).
However, the effectiveness of hormonal contraception, which was the option chosen by almost half of the women, has not actually been proven in people with epilepsy, and there were further concerns that 30%of the women were not using effective contraceptive techniques. In addition, of the 87.2% of the study participants who were registered with a neurologist, only a quarter of them were found to have consulted their doctor when choosing their contraception.
More in-depth analyses showed that people who were insured, Caucasian and older in age were more likely to use highly effective contraception.
The research concludes:
‘The EBCR web-based survey is the first large-scale study of the contraceptive practices of women with epilepsy in the community.
The findings suggest a need for the development of evidence-based guidelines that address the efficacy and safety of contraceptive methods in this special population, and for greater discourse between neurologists and women with epilepsy regarding contraception.’
Edited by Epilepsy Research UK
Click here for more articles about anti-epileptic drugs and pregnancy risks.