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Report more pregnant women with epilepsy having healthy births

16 April, 2003

A study at the University of Texas suggests that women with epilepsy are no more likely to give birth to babies with malformation than women who do not have epilepsy.

In research presented to the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, the study followed the pregnancies of 170 women with epilepsy, who, during the period of the study gave birth to 211 children. When the researchers performed a thorough review of the patients' epilepsy, they discovered that many did not have the condition.

Dr Paul Van Ness, from the Southwest Epilepsy Center in Dallas, reported that epilepsy or epileptic seizures were proven or highly likely in only 125 patients. Twenty of the women had non-epileptic seizures or events, 10 of the women had psychogenic seizures and the remaining 15 had other medical conditions that somewhat mimicked seizures. In 17 cases, the data was insufficient to determine if epilepsy or seizures existed and in 3 cases, the medical records could not be located.

Dr Van Ness said:

"When we really looked at what proof existed, 39 per cent of the women we thought had epilepsy did not, in fact, have the condition. Some had one seizures for example, some had a critical illness such as pre-eclampsia with seizures in relation to that, but not epilepsy. It's crucial to perform thorough diagnostic testing, including video-EEG, to identify women who suffer from non-epileptic conditions so unneeded anti-epileptic drugs can be discontinued".

The researchers also looked at malformation rates and found that 8 infants had major malformations or anomalies: 4 were born to the 123 women with epilepsy and 4 were from 88 women determined to not have epilepsy. This equates to a 3.2 per cent malformation rate in the women with epilepsy and a 4.5 per cent rate among those without epilepsy, a non-significant difference.

Dr Van Ness added:

"You constantly hear how women with epilepsy have problems with pregnancy: more C-sections, abnormalities in their babies, still births, but in our population, anomalies were no more common in the women with epilepsy, possibly reflecting advances in maternal-fetal medical care."