There is a lot to know about epilepsy. If you are a woman, there’s even more to consider, ranging from the impact of hormones on seizures, choosing seizure medications, birth control, pregnancy, parenting, menopause, bone health, and more.
Whether you’re new to epilepsy or have known about it for years, the more information you have the stronger you’ll be. Browse the information for women and make a list of your concerns and questions. Then talk to your health care team about what epilepsy means for you, as a female, at your age and hormonal state. Remember, as your body changes and you go through different life stages, you will have other concerns and information needs!
Information is only the start. You need to use the information to help you get the care you need.
Epilepsy and the medications used to control seizures can affect a woman’s sexual health. Infertility, sexual dysfunction, higher rates of birth defects, and even osteoporosis are real issues for women with seizures.
While we may know more now than in the past about women with epilepsy, many misconceptions still persist.
“Informal surveys at both the local and national levels show that women with epilepsy consistently report a lack of knowledge about the difficulties they face,” says Patricia Shafer, RN, MN, past chairman of the professional advisory board of the Epilepsy Foundation, who herself suffers from the disorder. “And a survey of health-care professionals, conducted a few years ago, revealed a lack of knowledge or uncertainty about what to do in terms of pregnancy management or problems of sexuality in such cases.”
Though Shafer and other experts who spoke with WebMD agree that strides have been made in understanding the unique problems facing women with epilepsy in the past few years, they point to a new dilemma: Getting the message out to general care practitioners and their patients.
“Many women tell me they’re aware of [some of the new findings],” says Shafer, who is also an epilepsy nurse specialist in the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “But they don’t follow through.”
Alison Pack, MD, assistant professor of clinical neurology at Columbia University in New York, agrees. She and others are channeling their efforts at spreading the word on three of the main problems women with epilepsy face: reproductive health; bone health, particularly as a woman approaches menopause; and pregnancy.