Will my child have epilepsy?
The child of a parent with epilepsy is only slightly more likely to have epilepsy. The overall risk of a child having unprovoked seizures is 1% to 2% in the general population and about 6% if their parent has epilepsy.
Your child is more likely to develop epilepsy if your own epilepsy was inherited (genetic).
If you’re worried they might have epilepsy, talk to your doctor about seeing a genetic counsellor. Remember – most children with epilepsy gain complete control over their seizures and lead normal lives.
What are the risks to my baby if I get pregnant?
Both seizures and seizure medications pose risks to a developing baby. Seizures during pregnancy can cause:
- Premature labour
- lowering of the baby’s heart rate.
Exposure to multiple seizure medications increases the risk for cognitive impairment in a developing foetus, but we don’t know the comparative risk of different combinations of seizure medications yet.
Nevertheless, seizure control is critical during pregnancy because the risks from uncontrolled seizures are greater than the risks from medications.
What should I do to reduce the chance of birth defects in my baby?
Women in general can decrease the risk of birth defects by taking folic acid when the brain and spinal cord of the foetus are forming, which is early in the first three months of pregnancy.That’s why women must take it before they get pregnant.
In fact, all women with epilepsy of childbearing age should take a daily folic acid supplement.
Most babies are born with low levels of vitamin K, which is vital in helping a baby’s blood to clot and preventing serious bleeding. Certain epilepsy medications, such as phenytoin and phenobarbital, can increase the risk of a newborn baby having a vitamin K deficiency.
However, if your baby receives vitamin K at birth (which is now normal practice in most maternity units), it’s rare for that to happen.
Even if you take a medication that can cause a vitamin K deficiency, make sure you always discuss medications with your doctor before making any changes.