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Guidelines for pregnant epilepsy patients

Press AssociationPress Association 20/06/2016

Health officials in the UK say more must be done to control epilepsy in pregnant women to reduce preventable deaths.

The neurological condition can lead to frequent seizures during pregnancy which can be harmful to mother and baby, increasing the risk of maternal death by 10.

Between 2009 and 2013, 21 British women died during pregnancy as a result of epilepsy.

In the majority of cases, the deaths occurred because seizures were poorly controlled.

Women were often not given any pre-conception counselling and were not cared for by an epilepsy nurse or specialist during their pregnancies.

The first guidelines on epilepsy in pregnancy for healthcare professionals and women with the condition has been produced and will be released at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) world congress in Birmingham.

The guidelines say that while most women with epilepsy give birth safely, healthcare professionals must give these women "specialist care".

The guidance aims to provide clarity about the condition, one of the most common neurological conditions in pregnancy, and offers advice on anti-epileptic drugs during pregnancy, supplements and support for new mothers.

Lead author of the guideline, Shakila Thangaratinam, professor of maternal and perinatal health and consultant obstetrician, said: "Women with epilepsy require multidisciplinary care throughout their pregnancy, and healthcare professionals need to be aware of the small but significant increase in risks.

"While most women who have epilepsy remain free of seizures throughout their pregnancy, some may have more seizures if they are pregnant.

"This is usually because they have stopped taking anti-epileptic drugs or are not taking them regularly. Pregnancy itself or tiredness can also increase the number of seizures."

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