Periods and epilepsy

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.

Will epilepsy affect my periods?

Your menstrual cycle starts on the first day of your period and ends on the day before your next period. Most women have a menstrual cycle of between 24 and 35 days and ovulate (release an egg) around 10-16 days before their next period.

Your menstrual cycle can be affected by many things including your age, your epilepsy, the number of seizures you have, or your epilepsy medicine. Some women with epilepsy find that their periods don’t follow a pattern, or happen very rarely.

If your periods don’t follow a pattern, happen rarely, or are very heavy, it’s a good idea to talk to your GP. If they feel your epilepsy medicine could be affecting your menstrual cycle, they might refer you to an epilepsy specialist, or gynaecologist.

Will my menstrual cycle affect my epilepsy?

Some women with epilepsy find their menstrual cycle has an effect on their seizures.

Catamenial epilepsy

You might have more seizures than usual at certain times in your menstrual cycle. This could be at the start of your period, around the middle of your cycle (when you ovulate) or in the week before your period. When changes in the hormones that control your menstrual cycle cause you to have more seizures, it’s called catamenial epilepsy. Some professionals call catamenial epilepsy or cyclical epilepsy.

If you think you may have catamenial epilepsy, try keeping a seizure diary for 3 months, to see if there is a clear pattern. If there is, your doctor can look at possible treatments with you, such as a prescription for the drug clobazam (Frisium). Clobazam is taken as well as your usual epilepsy medicine, but just on the days when you are at risk of having seizures. 

Premenstrual tension

Premenstrual tension (PMT) affects many women. It can make you feel moody, bloated, stressed and anxious in the days leading up to your period. If PMT makes you feel stressed or anxious, you might notice that you have more seizures at this time.

Download this information with references.

Code: 
B017.07

Epilepsy Action would like to thank Dr Janine Winterbottom, advanced nurse specialist in epilepsy at the Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust, for her contribution to this information.

Dr Janine Winterbottom has declared no conflict of interest.

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

  • Updated July 2020
    To be reviewed July 2023

Comments: read the 4 comments or add yours

Comments

Hi there,
I'm Rochelle and I'm 21, I'm also writing for myself as I'm epileptic and tend to have tonic clonic seizures every three to four weeks, sometimes they become a lot more regular due to lack of sleep (which is something I tend not to get a lot of), occasionally missing my medication although that's very rare and stress. I'm worried about my menstrual cycle though as it doesn't seem to follow a pattern at all. There's has been times over the last few years where I may not have gotten a period for approximately 4 months or more but now it's either happening as it should be which is monthly or it's either happening fortnightly or every third week. I'm also on three different types of medication all of which I take twice daily (lamictal, vimpat and clobazam). I don't know if these would have an effect on my menstrual cycle or not, also when I do get my period the blood is a brownish/very dark red colour (sorry if that's too much info) but I was just really hoping for some advice or information that would help with my worries.
Thank you x

Submitted by Rochelle

Hi Rochelle.

That sounds like a worry for you.

There are a lot of reasons why someone may have irregular periods. You might want to talk to your family doctor about this. And you are right that it may be linked in some way with your epilepsy. You could also take our information to your epilepsy consultant to see what their thoughts are.

It can be difficult to remember to take your medicine regularly especially if you’re taking more than one. But missing a single dose of your epilepsy medicine can risk you having a seizure. I wonder if you’ve thought about having any kind of pill reminder such as a dosette box?

I do hope you get some clear information about what is happening for you soon.

Regards

Cherry  

Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by Cherry - Epilep...

Hi
I am 52 and i am perimenopausal and started having temperal lobe seizures... i have tried several drugs ..lamotragen etc... now have been put on epilim...which has horrible side effects... and now doctor is giving me lacosamide...which has the same side effects... i get the seizure a week before periods...is there a hormone Pill i can take to stop this ?

Submitted by suzanne ocallaghan

Hi Suzanne – It can be really tough dealing with difficult side effects of epilepsy medicines. We don’t know of a hormone pill that can work to help reduce seizures. Sometimes clobozam, another epilepsy medicine, can be taken on the days you are likely to have a seizure if your epilepsy is related to your menstrual cycle. You may be able to discuss this with your consultant.

 

I’m also linking you to our information about getting the right treatment for your epilepsy. This explains what you might be able to do if you continue to experience severe side effects and your seizures are difficult to control.

 

I hope the side-effects you are experiencing start to get less over time and you can find the right medicine that works for you.

 

Regards

Mags

Epilepsy Action Helpline Team

Submitted by Mags - Epilepsy...

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