Epileptic women at childbearing age can have a safe pregnancy if they take proper precautions.
Aspiring mothers who are epileptic are often wary about the risk of stillbirths and miscarriages due to their condition.
However, epileptic women who have not had seizures for at least a year prior to pregnancy are not considered high-risk, according to experts.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines epilepsy as a chronic non-communicable disorder of the brain that affects about 50 million people of all ages worldwide.
Symptoms include loss of awareness or consciousness, and disturbances of movement, sensation, mood or other cognitive functions.
Most of the affected are from low-income and middle-income countries.
In the Philippines, epilepsy is one of the 48 diseases that contribute to about 80 percent of the country’s health burden.
This becomes a problem because anti-epileptic drugs (AED) are needed in controlling seizures, but are expensive for low-income and middle-income countries like the Philippines.
“I spend 250 pesos a day with PWD (persons with disabilities) discount,” said Jeanne Desiree Khonghun, an epileptic mother of two.
She said she was advised to not breastfeed because of her condition.
“Women with epilepsy and are within childbearing age face unique challenges relating to pregnancy and breastfeeding,” said Leonor Cabral-Lim, chair of Department of Neurosciences in University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH).
However, studies show that epileptic women are encouraged to breastfeed because of the advantages it brings to babies.
Concentrations of AEDs in breastmilk are generally safe but it is best to take caution and to monitor if the medicines contain phenobarbital and lamotrigine because these are highly expressed in breastmilk.
These may cause excessive sleepiness and lethargy in babies.
Seizures during pregnancy are unpredictable but in most cases the frequency remains the same as before the pregnancy.
Khonghun said seizures during delivery are unlikely, because it only affects about one percent of deliveries of epileptic mothers.