Epilepsy & Neurological Disorders

How common are neurological disorders in pregnancy?

Epilepsy is the commonest neurological disorder, affecting approximately 1-in-200 pregnant women. Migraine is also commonly seen. Less frequently seen neurological disorders in pregnancy include multiple sclerosis (1-in-1,000), myasthaenia gravis (1-in-10,000) and women with a previous stroke (1-in-25,000).

What effect will my neurological disorder have on my pregnancy?

Epilepsy does not increase the risk of pregnancy complications unless the mother develops a prolonged seizure. Some women will report an improvement in their seizures during pregnancy while others will notice a worsening. The highest risk time is around labour and in the first 24 hours post-partum. The main risk in pregnancy relates to the type of anti-seizure medication which the woman is taking at the time of conception. All anti-epileptic medications cross the placenta and many of the commonly used medications increase the risk of certain developmental problems for your baby (such as spina bifida, heart defects, cleft lip and palate). It is very important therefore, that women take folic acid supplements and change to the most appropriate medication before getting pregnant, to minimise any risk.

Migraine and multiple sclerosis do not cause pregnancy complications; in many cases, women with these conditions will notice an improvement in their symptoms while pregnant. Myasthaenia gravis can increase the risk of preterm delivery and fetal growth restriction. There is also a small risk of neonatal myasthenia, whereby the baby is floppy and has difficulty feeding after delivery.

Have you treated cases like mine before?

Yes, we are highly experienced in neurological disease in pregnant women. We have cared for pregnant women with the full range of neurological disorders, primarily epilepsy but also rarer diseases such as multiple sclerosis and myasthaenia gravis. We are familiar with all the common anti-epileptic medications and their particular risks in pregnant women.

  • Mater Hospital
  • North Shore Private Hospital
  • The University Of Sydney
  • Royal College Of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists