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Menopause

These pages are about women and epilepsy in the UK. If you are looking for information about women and epilepsy in another country, please contact your local epilepsy organisation

Menopause
Hormone replacement therapy

About the menopause

Every woman goes through the menopause. It’s sometimes called ‘the change of life’.  Around the time of the menopause, your periods happen less often and eventually stop altogether. Your body stops releasing eggs, which means that you can’t get pregnant naturally. Among other symptoms, you might have hot flushes and night sweats. You might also have trouble sleeping. This can cause you to have poor concentration and feel irritable.

When the menopause happens

In the UK, most women reach the menopause around the age of 52. However, it can happen earlier, or later, than this. If you have epilepsy, there’s a possibility that you may start the menopause earlier than other women. This is more likely if you have frequent seizures.

More information about the menopause is available from NHS Choices.

The menopause and seizures

Many women with epilepsy notice a change in their seizure pattern during or after the menopause. Some women have more seizures and some women have fewer seizures.

Catamenial epilepsy is when your seizures follow a pattern that is connected to your periods. If you have catamenial epilepsy some research suggests that you might have more seizures than usual in the time leading up to the menopause. After the menopause, you might find that your seizures happen less often.

About hormone replacement therapy

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a treatment that involves taking certain hormone supplements. The aim of HRT is to lessen or stop symptoms of the menopause, such as hot flushes and night sweats. Many women don’t have severe menopause symptoms, so don’t take HRT. But it can be helpful for women who find that the menopause is affecting their quality of life.

There is no clear evidence that women with epilepsy have different needs to other women.

These are some of the recommendations about using HRT from the British Menopause Society and Women's Health Concern.

  • The decision about whether to use HRT should be made by each woman, who should have been given enough information by her healthcare professional to make an informed choice.
  • Women using HRT should be reviewed each year.

These recommendations are available on the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website: rcog.org.uk.

So, if you are considering whether HRT may be helpful, talk to your doctor.

For more information about HRT and the menopause, see the British Menopause Society's website: thebms.org.uk.

If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website. See Women with epilepsy.

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This resource is freely available as part of Epilepsy Action’s commitment to improving life for all those affected by epilepsy.

On average it costs £414 to produce an advice and information page – if you have valued using this resource, please text FUTURE to 70500 to donate £3 towards the cost of our future work. Terms and conditions. Thank you

Code: 
B017.03

Epilepsy Action wishes to thank Penny Burt, Nurse Specialist (Epilepsy), Royal Victoria Infirmary,Newcastlefor her contribution to this information. Penny has declared no conflict of interest.

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

  • Updated August 2013
    To be reviewed August 2015

Comments: read the 9 comments or add yours

Comments

i was diagnosed with left lobar temporal Epilepsy in my early 30's I am a Night fitter! i have kept it under control in the main with Topriamate but now at 48 i am having fits ....
they are now 2 -3 a week my periods are now very heavy and every 3 weeks and they have now added Tegratol to the topriamate, but after 2 weeks at 200mg i am dizzy constipated and tired out and have a head ache .. not helping my celiacs , is there any options , because i feel like stopping all of the pills and putting up with the fits the side affects where less.

Submitted by paula.sherratt on

Hi Paula

I’d firstly strongly advise you not to stop your epilepsy medicines without supervision from your epilepsy specialist, as this can be dangerous. If you don’t have an epilepsy specialist, your GP can refer you to one.

I do appreciate it’s difficult when you start a new epilepsy medicine, as the side-effects can be more obvious at first. That is especially when you are already taking one epilepsy medicine. The symptoms you mentioned, headache, drowsiness and constipation are listed as possible side-effects of carbamazepine. Topiramate also has some of these as possible side-effects. So, your symptoms could be related to your epilepsy medicines, but we can’t say definitely.  If they are due to your medicines, they might settle down once on a therapeutic dose. If the symptoms are something that you feel you can’t cope with, talk to your epilepsy specialist. They might advise a much slower introduction to carbamazepine, or to change it for you.

It can take a while to find the right epilepsy medicine, the right dose, with as few side-effects as possible and that gives the best control possible. We have some information on treatment of epilepsy on our website. You might find it helpful to read this.

Rosanna
Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Rosanna@Epileps... on

Hello, I had my first seizure in May this year and had a second one on Wednesday just gone (4 days after I was able to re-apply for my driving licence!). I am wondering if epilepsy ever starts in menopause? I noticed earlier this year that my periods had started to go a bit funny and i took note of when it was in July as I was going on holiday in August. The dates are adrift and my GP has said that I am perimenopausal. I have been to see a neurologist after the first one and all my tests, which were CT (in A&E after the first one), MRI and EEG are all either clear or normal. After a seizure my memory is appalling. I also at times get incredib;e feelings of deja vu and think I can smell a certain smell, but I never then have a seizure. I was like this on Thursday this week, after having had a seizure (I think, I woke up in a chair in the freezing cold conservatory with a very sore tongue!).

My GP is sending me back to the neurologist but I did just wonder about the menopause thing. My late dad had temporal lobe epilepsy. But I would havwe thought if I had been going to inherit, I would have done it before the grand old age of 47?

Submitted by Renni on

Hi Renni

Epilepsy can develop at any age. For most people, six out of ten, there is no known cause. 

Inheritance can sometimes be a reason for someone to develop epilepsy. With your dad’s history of epilepsy, it may be you have inherited a low seizure threshold. We all have something called a seizure threshold in our brain. People with a low seizure threshold are more likely to have seizures than people with a high seizure threshold. If you have a low seizure threshold, it could be possible the hormanal change due to the menopause, could lower it further. For more information on the likelihood of your epilepsy being inherited, here is a direct link  to our information

Some women do notice a link between hormones and their epilepsy. Some women may notice a change in their seizure pattern during or after hormonal changes such as around their periods or the menopause. Some women have more seizures and some women may have fewer seizures.

If we can be of any more help, you may wish to contact us, either by email or the Epilepsy Helpline freephone 0808 800 5050.

Regard

Diane
Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Diane@Epilepsy ... on

I started having night seizures as the age of 31 when I was pregnant with my third child. 'Taking Epilim controlled them for a number of years and then I started having fits during the day and episodes of deja vu. I am now 46 and believe I am at the end of the menopause as I haven't had a period for nearly 12 months. I am currently taking carbamezapine (tegratol) alongside Levetiracetam which are controlling my fits as I haven't had one since February so hoping to re-apply for my driving licence February 2013. I also believe that hormones have played a large part in when my fits occur and wonder if it is usual in cases like mine to start reducing the drugs to see if the seizures have stopped now that my periods have.

Submitted by Wendy Green on

Hi, I have had fits since I reached puberty, and now I am 55 and still get the partial fits, I have had a hysterectomy when I was 36, but I am using HRT because I get hot flushes and I am convinced that the hormones are linked in with the fits, I just need someone to tell me that one day this will end, because I was okay before I started my periods, and now I'm more than ready to get rid of them for good and not on a temporary basis. Can anyone give me any hope, it's very disheartening. :(

Submitted by Jasmine on

Hi Jasmine

I wish I could tell you if or when your epilepsy will stop. But epilepsy is so unpredictable. What is important is that you see your epilepsy specialist regularly so they can keep reviewing your epilepsy medicines and any other treatment options for you.

If you are not under a specialist, you will need to ask your family doctor to refer you. This would preferably be to someone with a specialist interest in epilepsy, as there are many different neurological conditions, and different specialists treat different ones. You could also ask to be referred to a specialist menopause clinic, to see if there is a link between your HRT and seizures.

If you think it may be of help to talk to other women who have had similar experiences, we have local groups or coffee and chats around the UK. From our experience, in most case people find it helpful to talk to or contact people who understand what they are experiencing. If you think this could help you, you could see if we have a groups or coffee and chat near to you.

We also have our online community, forum4e. This is for people with epilepsy and carers of people with epilepsy.  The forum allows people to discuss anything and everything with other people who have epilepsy. It has a forum with areas to discuss subjects such as medicines, seizures and so on, and share experiences.

If we can be of any more help, please feel free to contact us again, either by email or the Epilepsy Helpline freephone 0808 800 5050.

Diane Wallace

Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Diane on

I am 41 and up until 2008 i was just an insulin diabetic, i began having vacancies 4-9 times a day then had a seizure, medication helped but didnt stop the vacancies, in April 2013 i had my first secondary generalized seizure which caused todds paresis, i now have these kind of seizures and not the less aggressive ones, these all seem to occur in the run up to my period between wk 3 and 4, i think i am going through the early stages of menopause, i dont't cope with epilepsy at the best of times. i was fiercely independent before diagnosis, working, driving and well. menopause seems to be throwing me all sorts of triggers for both illnesses and because i do not seem to be able to balance the two without one upsetting the other, i am seeing diabetic doctor and the epi nurse to try and balance them but to no avail. Any ideas?? on what i could buy or try ?.

Submitted by nikkxx on

Hi.

It sounds like you are really going through it at the moment, with trying to balance diabetes, epilepsy and menopause.  But we are not medically trained, so I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to offer you any suggestions myself. I do hope the nurses can help though.

In terms of something to help you cope better with your epilepsy, you may be interested in our online community, forum4e. This is for people with epilepsy and carers of people with epilepsy. People can find it really helpful to talk to other people in a similar situation.

I do hope things improve for you soon.

Cherry

Advice and Information Team

Submitted by Cherry on

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