Research collected over a thirty-year span has given physicians better insight into the effects epileptic drugs have on women’s contraception, pregnancy, and breast feeding.
“The issues are complex for the more than one million women with epilepsy in the United States,” said Dr. Catherine Zahn, a neurologist at the University of Toronto that co-authored new guidelines for physicians that treat epileptic women, with the American Academy of Neurology.
Women who suffer from epilepsy face higher rates of infertility. In addition, the anti-seizure medications used to treat their epileptic seizures often lower the effectiveness of birth control pills, raise the risk of certain birth defects, and can be transmitted to their babies through breast milk.
The report warned that, while anti-epileptic drugs increase the chance of birth defects, the occurrence of seizures could also injure or even kill the mother and fetus.
“Even given (their) reduced effectiveness (when taken with certain anti-seizure drugs) oral contraceptives are still as effective as IUDs and more effective than barrier methods such as condoms,” Zahn stated at a press conference on the report. She also added that most epileptic women who become pregnant “will have successful pregnancies and healthy babies.”