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.
Does 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. If they have sex, this is the time of the month when they are most likely to get pregnant.
Your menstrual cycle can be affected by your epilepsy, the number of seizures you have, your age or your epilepsy medicine. Some women with epilepsy find that their periods don’t follow a pattern, or happen very rarely. This can make it difficult to work out when you have the best chance of getting pregnant.
If your periods don’t follow a pattern, happen rarely, or are very heavy, it’s a good idea to talk to your GP. They might give you advice about your lifestyle or suggest you have some blood tests. If they feel your epilepsy medicine could be affecting your menstrual cycle, they might refer you to an epilepsy specialist.
Seizures and your menstrual cycle
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 cyclical epilepsy.
If you think you 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 (PMT) is something that affects many women. It can make you feel moody, bloated, stressed and anxious in the days leading up to your periods. Some women with epilepsy find that feeling stress or anxious makes them more likely to have seizures. If PMT makes you feel stressed or anxious, you might notice that you have more seizures at this time.
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 Helpline freephone on 0808 800 5050.
Epilepsy Action would like to thank Penny Burt, Nurse Specialist (Epilepsy), Dr Yvonne Hart, Consultant Neurologist, Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and Michael Marsh, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, King’s College Hospital, for their contributions to this booklet.
The following interests have been declared:
Penny Burt has received sponsorship to attend epilepsy conferences from UCB Pharma, GlaxoSmithKline, Desitin and Eisai.
Yvonne Hart has received payments for lectures given, advisory work and/or sponsorship to attend epilepsy conferences from UCB Pharma, GlaxoSmithKline, Bial, Desitin and Eisai.
Epilepsy Action does not believe these interests have influenced the content of this information in any way.
Michael Marsh has declared no conflict of interest.
This information has been produced under the terms of Epilepsy Action's information quality standards.
- Updated February 2017To be reviewed February 2020