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Most women with epilepsy will have a normal vaginal delivery. However, your doctor will probably advise you to have your baby in hospital. This is to make sure that a doctor can care for you and your baby, if you have a seizure during labour.
The risk of having a seizure when you are in labour is small. For every 100 women with epilepsy in labour, only one or two will have a seizure. If you have a seizure during labour, it won’t necessarily mean that you will need to have a caesarean section (C-section). If the health of you and your baby is fine, you may still be able to have a normal delivery.
Here are some suggestions for lowering the risk of having a seizure during labour.
- Take your own epilepsy medicine to the hospital with you, and take it at your usual time. You could ask your midwife or your birth partner to help you remember to take it.
- Ask your doctor if they can give you some extra epilepsy medicine during labour. They may do this if you have had seizures during your pregnancy.
- Sleep deprivation, emotional stress and pain may increase your risk of having a seizure. So, try to make sure that you have enough support and pain relief.
- If you feel nauseous or sick, you can ask the midwife for an injection to stop the feeling. This is important if you are finding it difficult to take or keep your epilepsy medicine down.
There are lots of options for pain relief during labour. Here are some important things to remember.
- Doing breathing exercises and using gas and air may help you manage pain during labour. But you should be careful not to over-breathe. Over-breathing can trigger seizures for some people.
- Epidurals and gas are suitable forms of pain relief, if you have epilepsy.
- High doses of pethidine (a drug used for pain relief) have triggered seizures in some people. For this reason, you may be advised not to use pethidine. Diamorphine can be used instead.
- Water births, and having a bath during labour, are not usually recommended for women with epilepsy. There is a risk that you could drown if you had a seizure.
- TENS machines are often used for pain relief during labour. These are perfectly suitable for you if you have epilepsy.
Vitamin K is important for making our blood clot. A very small number of babies are born without enough vitamin K in their body. This can cause them to bleed in different parts of their body, any time in the first few weeks of life. For example, they could bleed from their nose, mouth or bottom. They may also have bleeding in their brain. Bleeding in newborn babies can be very serious and can cause brain damage and even death. This is why all babies are given vitamin K shortly after birth. This can be given by mouth, or by injection.
It is not clear whether taking epilepsy medicine during pregnancy may lower the amount of vitamin K in your baby. However, your doctor will advise that an injection of vitamin K is given to your baby at birth.
Epilepsy Action would like to thank Beth Irwin, Epilepsy Nurse/Midwife, Royal Hospitals, Belfast, UK for reviewing this information.
Beth Irwin has no conflict of interest to declare.
This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.
- Updated September 2014To be reviewed September 2017