Contraception and epilepsy

Your epilepsy or epilepsy medicine could affect how well some types of contraception work. To find out what types of contraception may work for you, click on the name of your epilepsy medicine in the list below.

General information on different types of contraception

Barrier methods

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

  • Condom or sheath (worn by the man). This aims to prevent pregnancy by stopping the man’s sperm meeting the woman’s egg
  • Diaphragm or cervical cap (worn by the woman). This aims to prevent pregnancy by stopping the man’s sperm getting to the woman’s uterus (womb)
  • Female condom (worn by the woman). This aims to prevent pregnancy by stopping the man’s sperm meeting the woman’s egg

Hormonal contraception

Hormonal contraception comes in a variety of forms. They each use hormones to prevent pregnancy. They include:

  • Combined oral contraceptive pill (containing oestrogen and progestogen) known as the ‘the Pill’. There are many different brands
  • Contraceptive implant. This is a small rod that’s placed under the skin in your upper arm. It releases the hormone progestogen into your bloodstream. It provides long-acting reversible contraception. The brand most used in the UK is Nexplanon
  • Contraceptive injection. This releases the hormone progestogen into your bloodstream. The brand most used in the UK is Depo-Provera. Less often, the brand Noristerat is used
  • Contraceptive patch. This is a small patch that you stick to your skin. It releases oestrogen and progestogen into your bloodstream. The brand most used in the UK is Evra
  • Progestogen-only pill, sometimes called ‘the mini pill’. There are many different brands 
  • Vaginal ring. This is a small ring that you place inside your vagina. It releases oestrogen and progestogen into your bloodstream. The brand most used in the UK is NuvaRing

Some hormonal contraception is not recommended if you take certain epilepsy medicines. This is because the epilepsy medicine may interact with the contraception, making it work less well. Click on the individual medicine to find out if this is the case for your medicine.

Intrauterine devices

An intrauterine device is a small T-shaped device that is put into a woman's uterus (womb) to prevent conception and pregnancy. It provides long-acting reversible contraception. Intrauterine devices include:

  • IUD, which releases copper to stop you getting pregnant (also known as a ‘coil')
  • IUS, which releases a small amount of hormones to stop you getting pregnant (also referred to as an intrauterine system). The brands used in the UK are Mirena and Jaydess

Natural birth control

Some women may feel they would prefer to use a natural way of preventing pregnancy. Natural birth control relies on accurately tracking your menstrual cycle, and not having sex when you identify that you are fertile. The body’s hormone levels are an important part of using natural birth control. Because some epilepsy medicines, and epilepsy itself, can affect hormone levels, this is not a reliable way for any woman with epilepsy to prevent an unplanned pregnancy.

Sterilisation 

Female sterilisation
This involves an operation to block or seal the fallopian tubes. This prevents the woman’s eggs from reaching the sperm and becoming fertilised. It is a permanent method of birth control.

Male sterilisation (vasectomy)
This involves an operation to cut, block or seal the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the penis. This stops sperm getting into the fluid that is ejaculated during sex. It means a woman’s eggs can’t be fertilised. It is a permanent method of birth control.

Emergency contraception

Emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy if you have had sex without using other contraception. It can also be used if your usual contraception has failed. For example, you might have missed taking a pill, or a condom might have split. There are 2 types of emergency contraception:

  1. The ‘morning-after’ pill. There are 2 different ones:
    • Levonelle (containing levonorgestrel)
    • ellaOne (containing ulipristal acetate)

2.    Intrauterine device (IUD, also known as a coil)

If you would like to see our contraception 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 Action Helpline freephone on 0808 800 5050.

Code: 
F058.07

Epilepsy Action would like to thank Beth Irwin, epilepsy nurse/midwife, The Royal Hospital, Belfast, for her help in planning this document and to Kim Morley, epilepsy specialist midwife for her contribution to this information.

Beth Irwin and Kim Morley have declared no conflict of interest.

  • Updated November 2019
    To be reviewed May 2022

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