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'Mothers in mind'

September 2008

Mothers in mind campaign promotes healthy mums and babies

Every year, around four women with epilepsy die during pregnancy or giving birth, meaning they face a seven times greater risk than women without epilepsy. 

It is this gap which has prompted the launch of the Mothers in mind: healthy births campaign during National Pregnancy Health Month (September). The campaign will work towards giving more mums with epilepsy and their babies a happy and healthy future.

Mothers in mind bookletA recent report called Saving Mothers' Lives, produced by the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health , made a number of recommendations for maternal healthcare provided to women. These included greater provision of pre-conception advice for women with epilepsy. Alongside this, the UK Epilepsy and Pregnancy Register  has shown that babies of mums with epilepsy have a higher risk of malformations. The risk of these problems can be reduced by making sure the mum is taking the best drug for her epilepsy, in the right dosage.

The good news is that the Mothers in mind: healthy births campaign offers a number of excellent tools to help health professionals give the best advice and care to women with epilepsy. The charity's own surveys  have shown that too many women aren't being given pre-conception counselling. Epilepsy Action's new packs will help health professionals talk through the vital issues with their patient. Then the doctor and the mum can decide the best way forward, based on accurate information.

Professor Pamela Crawford, consultant neurologist at York Hospital and a firm supporter of the campaign, said: "It is important for women with epilepsy to plan their pregnancies as simple measures can decrease the risks associated with pregnancy and epilepsy.
"Under no circumstances, however, should women stop taking AEDs without consulting their GP or health professional. Women need to work in partnership with healthcare professionals so that they are able to make informed choices regarding their epilepsy and its management. The aim is to achieve good seizure control during and after pregnancy."

To support women and provide them with knowledge on how to best manage their condition before, during and after pregnancy, the Epilepsy Helpline will be raising awareness of pregnancy issues throughout September 2008. Epilepsy Action is also launching a new online service – The Pregnancy Diaries. Three new mums with epilepsy share their experiences of planning a family, their pregnancies and parenting.

Nicole Crosby-McKenna, Epilepsy Action's development officer for women said: "At this important time in a woman's life, it's vital for her to feel well-informed and in control. We think The Pregnancy Diaries will prove an invaluable support network for women with epilepsy, who may be having a hard time deciding what's best for them and their unborn baby."

To discuss the campaign or any concerns you may have about pregnancy, telephone our Epilepsy Helpline on freephone 0808 800 5050 and ask for our focus on making women pregnancy aware service.

i  December 2007 Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health: Saving Mothers' Lives – Reviewing maternal deaths to make motherhood safer 2003-2005; The Seventh Report of the Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths in the United Kingdom
ii  Morrow J I, Russell A, Gutherie E, et al 'Malformation risks of anti-epileptic drugs in pregnancy: A prospective study from the UK Epilepsy and Pregnancy Register', J Neural Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2005 Sep 12.
iii  The Ideal World for Women Survey was sent to 2000 women with epilepsy, aged over 16. Some 537 usable responses were returned, a response rate of 26.85 per cent.

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