"Suzie" (name changed by request) is a thirty-two year old woman with epilepsy who was thinking about having a baby. Pregnancy is perhaps one of the most joyous occasions in a woman’s life. However, for women with epilepsy, it can also be an especially stressful time.
If I have epilepsy:
- Is it safe to get pregnant?
- Will it be harder to conceive?
- Could anti-seizure medications harm the baby?
- What will happen to the baby if a seizure occurs?
Suzie's beautiful baby boy, Jordan
When Suzie went to discuss her options with her epilepsy doctor, he answered as many questions as he could, but told her about research being conducted to try and answer the others. He described a study that is being conducted by researchers at NYU on the fertility of women with epilepsy. Although women with epilepsy can safely become pregnant and have healthy children, studies have found that women with seizure disorders have fewer children than women in general. There are many different explanations that could account for this difference, and a team of researchers in three different hospitals, including NYU Comprehensive Epilepsy Center , is currently exploring the reasons for this disparity. The study involves keeping track of seizures and other information using a daily electronic log as well as a few blood draws.
Suzie enrolled in the study in January, was pregnant by April and had a beautiful, healthy baby boy the following January. When asked about her experience in the study, Suzie said that the tracking device was “Very easy to use” and “made [her] feel safe… so if anything were to happen, it was easier to get in touch with someone.” When asked about the blood draws, she said that they were “not a big deal at all. I don’t live in the city so the coordinator came to me – it was very convenient.”
There are many questions women with epilepsy face when considering pregnancy. With more than one million women and girls in the US having a seizure disorder, many women throughout the country will have to encounter these issues. When asked why she joined the study, Suzie explained, “I feel like I never give back to the epilepsy community, so this is my way of giving back to others and helping the epilepsy cause. I felt it was time to give back.” The hope is that this research will improve the lives of women with epilepsy everywhere. It is unknown whether epilepsy causes a decreased fertility rate or how seizure frequency changes during the stages of pregnancy. By participating in research projects, these issues can be better understood and, in the future, women with epilepsy will be better able to work with their doctors to have the best possible outcome for themselves and their children.
Are you a woman with epilepsy who’s considering pregnancy? You may be eligible to participate in this research study on fertility in women with epilepsy. For more information, please contact Joseph Lee, NYU CEC research coordinator, at Joseph.Lee2@nyumc.org or Dr. Jacqueline French at Jacqueline.French@nyumc.org .