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Contraception and epilepsy

Find out about different methods of contraception, and how they may be affected by epilepsy or epilepsy medicines.

Different types of planned contraception

There are three main types of planned contraception:

  • Barrier methods
  • Hormonal treatment
  • Natural birth control (rhythm and Persona)

Barrier methods

Barrier methods are used during sex to prevent the sperm reaching the egg. These barriers include:

  • Caps
  • Condoms
  • The coil
  • Diaphragms
  • Femidoms

Hormonal contraception

Some methods of contraception use the hormones oestrogen and progestogen, or just progestogen. These hormones are similar to those that your own body produces to control your menstrual cycle (when each month your body prepares to have a baby).

Epilepsy Action has more information about the menstrual cycle.

Hormonal contraception includes:

  • Combined oral contraceptive pill (the Pill)
  • Contraceptive implant
  • Contraceptive patch
  • Depo-Provera contraceptive injection
  • Mirena coil
  • Noristerat contraceptive injection
  • Progestogen-only pill (the mini pill)
  • Vaginal ring

Natural birth control

Natural birth control methods rely on accurately tracking your menstrual cycles, and not having sex when you identify that you are fertile. The two main methods are:

  • The rhythm method
  • The Persona method

The body’s hormone levels are an important part of using natural birth control.

Natural birth control methods are not recommended for any women with epilepsy. This is because some epilepsy medicines, and epilepsy itself, can affect hormone levels.

Different types of unplanned (emergency) contraception

This type of contraception can be used after unprotected sex or when a planned method of contraception has failed. The two main types are:

  • The morning-after pill
    • Levonorgestrel (Levonelle)
    • Ulipristal acetate (EllaOne)
  • The coil

Which type of contraception will – or will not - work for me?

Find out by clicking on the name of epilepsy medicine(s) you take.

How can I find out more about contraception?

Talk to your family doctor, epilepsy specialist nurse or your local family planning clinic. They can help you choose a form of contraception that will work for you and suit your lifestyle.

It’s important to be happy with your choice, and to know how to use it properly, if you don’t want to become pregnant.

Further information is available from:

NHS website
Website: nhs.uk

Family Planning Association
Website: fpa.org.uk

What do I need to know about planning a pregnancy?

Ideally, you should have some pre-conception counselling before you become pregnant. This is because there is a small risk that seizures or epilepsy medicines could affect your and your baby’s health. With careful planning, these risks can often be lowered.

If you are unexpectedly pregnant, don’t stop taking your epilepsy medicines. This could cause more frequent or more severe seizures. And it would put you, and your baby, at higher risk of problems than taking your medicines. Speak to your GP as soon as possible. They will be able to find the help and advice you need.

Sodium valproate is associated with an increased risk of harm to babies if taken during pregnancy. If you are a woman capable of becoming pregnant, sodium valproate should only be prescribed if no other epilepsy medicine suits you.

If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy and you take sodium valproate, seek advice from your doctor and do not stop taking your medication.

Read more

If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website. If you are unable to access the internet, please contact our Epilepsy Freephone Helpline on 0808 800 5050.

This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.

  • Updated December 2015
  • Currently under review

Epilepsy Action would like to thank Beth Irwin, Epilepsy Nurse/Midwife at the UK Epilepsy and Pregnancy Register, Belfast, for her contribution to this information.

Beth Irwin has no conflict of interest to declare.

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