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Women:  What You Should Know

In many ways, epilepsy is a different condition in a woman than in a man. The differences arise because of biological differences between women and men, but also because of the different social roles they play. As a result of these biological and social differences, women with epilepsy face special challenges, especially in the area of reproductive health.

Social Consequences of Epilepsy in Women
Epilepsy is a chronic disorder that may affect how you feel about yourself and your relationship with other people, such as family friends, or coworkers.

Hormones & Epilepsy
Although it is not well understood, yet, we know that the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, act on certain brain cells, including those in the temporal lobe, a part of the brain where partial seizures often begin. 

Birth Control for Women With Epilepsy
There are complex interactions between the hormones (estrogen and progesterone) contained in birth control pills or devices, and some of the medications used to control seizures.

Genetics & Epilepsy
Some types of epilepsy are inherited. Epilepsy is not a single disorder but a collection of many disorders that all have in common the tendency to have recurring seizures.

Epilepsy and Sexual Relationships
We do not yet fully understand all the complex causes for sexual problems, especially how they may relate to epilepsy. For example, some people have a low level of sexual desire; others have difficulty becoming sexually aroused; or intercourse can be painful for some women. It is not unusual for people to have problems with sexual performance at times, and people with epilepsy are no exception.

Pregnancy and Epilepsy Medications
Women who have epilepsy have special concerns when they decide to have a baby. They wonder if epilepsy or antiepileptic medication can affect their pregnancy or their unborn child. These concerns are important ones and are also shared by the medical profession.

Health Issues After Your Baby Is Born
During pregnancy, concentrations of your antiepileptic drug (AED) may change or decrease, putting you at greater risk for seizures. Your physician may increase your seizure medication for better seizure protection. After your baby is born, your hormones change and medication levels in your bloodstream tend to rise, increasing the possibility of side effects.

Parenting Concerns for the Mother With Epilepsy
Every prospective parent has to think through issues that affect the safety of their baby. There may be additional factors for people with epilepsy to consider.

Menopause & Epilepsy
Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when her ovaries stop working, her menstrual periods stop and the level of sex hormones in her body decreases. Hormones can have an effect on brain function, thus seizure patterns may change in some women as they go through menopause, just as they may at other times of hormonal change.

Talking to Your Doctor

Treating epilepsy, especially in women, involves many different people. The team may include your doctor, nurse, psychologist or social worker, and specialists such as a neurologist or an obstetrician/gynecologist.

Special Concerns about Epilepsy for Teenage Girls
Puberty is the time when your body changes and your grow from a child to an adult. Some of these physical changes happen quickly and the dose of seizure medicine that worked before is not enough for your new body size.


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