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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 5 main types of planned contraception:

Barrier methods

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

  • Cap (FemCap)
  • Condom or sheath
  • Diaphragm
  • Femidom (Milex)

Hormonal contraception

Some methods of contraception use the hormones oestrogen and progestogen, and some use 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).

Hormonal contraception includes:

  • Combined oral contraceptive pill (the pill)
  • Contraceptive implant (Nexplanon)
  • Contraceptive injection (Depo-Provera)
  • Contraceptive injection (Noristerat) (short term method of contraception only)
  • Contraceptive patch (Ortho Evra)
  • Hormone releasing intrauterine system (IUS) (Mirena)
  • Progestogen-only pill (the mini pill)
  • Vaginal ring (NuvaRing)

Intrauterine device or system

  • Copper intrauterine device (IUD) coil
  • Hormone releasing intrauterine system (IUS) (Mirena)

These are small, T-shaped birth control devices that are inserted into a woman's uterus (womb) to prevent pregnancy. They provide long-acting reversible contraception (LARC). The Family Planning Organisation has a guide to LARC.

Natural birth control

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

  • Persona contraception monitor
  • Rhythm method
  • Sympto-thermal 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.

Sterilisation

  • Female sterilisation

This involves an operation to permanently prevent pregnancy. The fallopian tubes are blocked or sealed by applying a clip, ring or tying and cutting and removing a piece of each fallopian tube. This is to prevent eggs from reaching the sperm and becoming fertilised. It is usually carried out under local or general anaesthetic.

  • Male sterilisation

This involves an operation to cut or seal the tubes that carry sperm from a man’s testicles to the penis into the fluid that is ejaculated during sex. This is a permanent method of birth control and is usually carried out under local anaesthetic.

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 2 main types are:

Morning-after pill

  • Levonorgestrel (Levonelle)
  • Ulipristal acetate (EllaOne)

Intrauterine device

  • Copper intrauterine device (IUD) 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


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: 
F058.05

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

Beth Irwin and Kim Morley have no conflict of interest to declare.

This information has been produced under the terms of Epilepsy Action's information quality standards.

  • Updated May 2019
    To be reviewed May 2022

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