Epilepsy and pregnancy: identifying risks

Pregnancy is a time of physical, physiological and psychological challenge. For women with epilepsy, as well as its potential for joy and fulfilment, pregnancy may bring additional risks and difficulties. Clinicians must anticipate and prevent these complications, ensuring that pregnancy, delivery and motherhood proceed without obstetric or medical complications, using available evidence to balance individual risks of undertreatment and overtreatment. Here we review epilepsy management in pregnancy, identifying some of the known effects of epilepsy and its treatment on gestation, fetal malformation, delivery, and neurocognitive and behavioural development. We outline strategies to reduce obstetric and fetal complications in women with epilepsy, while recognising the sometimes competing need to maintain or improve seizure control. We reinforce the importance of identifying those at highest risk, who may require additional measures or safeguards.

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