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Sex, men and epilepsy

Many men with epilepsy have normal sex lives and father healthy children. But epilepsy can sometimes cause problems with sex and fertility. This information is for those men with epilepsy who may have problems.

Will having epilepsy affect my sex life?

Any man might have problems with sex from time to time, but problems are more common in men with epilepsy than men without epilepsy. The most common problems for men with epilepsy are having little or no interest in sex, and having problems with getting or keeping an erection.

How epilepsy can affect sex life

There are a number of possible reasons why, as a man with epilepsy, you’re more likely to have problems with sex. Possible reasons include:

Epilepsy medicines

Some epilepsy medicines list sexual problems as a possible side-effect. These medicines are gabapentin, pregabalin, topiramate, clobazam and clonazepam.

Some other medicines don’t list sexual problems as a side-effect. But they can reduce the level of testosterone in your body. This could affect your interest in or ability to have sex. The medicines that can cause you to have low testosterone levels include phenobarbital, phenytoin, carbamazepine and primidone. There’s also some evidence that oxcarbazepine, when taken at doses higher than 900mg per day, can have this effect.

Many men take these epilepsy medicines, but only some will have sexual problems. If you think your epilepsy medicine might be having an effect on your sex life talk to your GP, epilepsy specialist nurse or epilepsy specialist.

The effect of epilepsy itself

Seizures, especially those that start in a part of the brain called the temporal lobe, can affect levels of sex hormones in the body. Studies suggest that people with temporal lobe epilepsy are more likely to have low sex drive.

Worry about seizures

Some men worry that they’ll have a seizure during sex. Having sex is very unlikely to trigger seizures, and most men with epilepsy don’t have seizures during sex. But if this is something that you’re worried about, the worry could have an effect on your sex life.

Depression and anxiety

People with epilepsy are more likely to be affected by depression and anxiety. If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, this could cause you to have less interest in sex.

Testosterone

Your body produces the hormone testosterone. Testosterone is responsible for many things that affect your sex life. These include your interest in having sex, your ability to have sex and your fertility. If you have low testosterone levels, this may cause you to have problems with your sex life.

Treating sexual problems

If you have any worries about your sex drive, or your ability to have sex, you are not alone. It’s really worth talking to your GP. They will look for ways to help you. For most men with sexual problems, a treatment can be found.

If you and your doctor think your sexual problems may have an emotional cause, your doctor may recommend sex therapy, psychotherapy or relationship counselling.

If it looks like there’s a physical cause for your sexual problems, your GP may suggest lifestyle changes or treatments to help.

If your GP thinks your sexual problems might be connected to your epilepsy or epilepsy medicines, they will usually refer you to an epilepsy specialist. Your epilepsy specialist might suggest making changes to your treatment to see if this helps.

The NHS website has information about treatment for male sexual problems.

Fertility (fathering a baby)

Some research suggests that men with epilepsy may not be as fertile as men who don’t have epilepsy. This can make it more difficult to father a baby.

Ways in which epilepsy may affect your fertility

You may be taking an epilepsy medicine that can reduce the amount of sperm you produce or affect the quality of it. Carbamazepine, phenytoin and sodium valproate may all have this effect. There’s a small amount of evidence that levetiracetam may also affect the number and quality of sperm you produce.

Your epilepsy or epilepsy medicines may have caused you to have lower testosterone levels than usual. This could make you less fertile.

Treating fertility problems

If you’re trying for a baby and your partner is taking a long time to get pregnant, speak to your family doctor. They can check for common causes of fertility problems in you and your partner. They can also suggest treatments that may help.

If your family doctor thinks that your epilepsy or epilepsy medicines are a possible cause, they’ll usually refer you to an epilepsy specialist. The specialist may make changes to your epilepsy medicine, to see if that helps.

Where to get further help

Sexual Advice Association
Tel:  020 7486 7262
Website: sexualadviceassociation.co.uk
Aims to help improve the sexual health and wellbeing of men and women. Their website has information on many different aspects of sexual problems.

Institute of Psychosexual Medicine (IPM)
Website: ipm.org.uk
Provides a list of IPM trained specialists, some working privately and some on the NHS.

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 Action Freephone Helpline on 0808 800 5050.

Code: 
F074.03

Epilepsy Action would like to thank Dr John Paul Leach, consultant neurologist at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow, for his contribution.

Dr John Paul Leach has declared no conflict of interest.

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

  • Updated October 2018
    To be reviewed October 2021

Comments: read the 3 comments or add yours

Comments

My husband likes to do sex at the time of epilepsy or after epilepsy.is it harmful for him or it bursts his stress.he feels relaxed after sex even just after epilepsy attack.

Submitted by Vipula on

This information is all very useful and explains more than I came i on to know. I got my fiancé pregnant in 10 months but the one question I have is if women can’t take epilim pregnant, are sex and stuff safe while I’m on it. I take quite a high dose.

Submitted by Gareth on

Hi Gareth,

Thanks for your message. Having sex whilst taking Epilim is perfectly safe. And as far as we are aware it can only be harmful to an unborn baby if the mother is taking it during pregnancy. There are no known risks to the child if the father is taking Epilim.  

Regards

Jess

Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by rich on

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