Management issues for women with epilepsy: A review of the literature

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A review of literature referable to management issues for women with epilepsy (WWE) was undertaken for the development of a practice parameter.


Epilepsy is a common neurologic condition with gender-related management implications. Although reviews of this topic often focus on pregnancy-related issues for WWE, specific health concerns for WWE are present throughout all phases of reproductive life.


An OVID MEDLINE literature search was conducted for 1965 to 1997 using the following key words/phrases and cross referencing: epilepsy/seizures and pregnancy, anticonvulsants, antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), teratogenesis, oral contraceptives, birth defects, folate/folic acid, vitamin K, metabolic bone disease, and breast-feeding.


Pregnancy outcome literature for WWE spans several decades. Methodology varies and interpretation is complicated by modern management strategies. Contributions of socioeconomic factors, AEDs, maternal epilepsy, and seizures during pregnancy to adverse pregnancy outcomes have not been clearly delineated. There is a biologic basis for recommendations concerning contraception, folate supplementation, vitamin K use in pregnancy, breast-feeding, metabolic bone disease, catamenial epilepsy, and reproductive endocrine disorders, but no outcome studies afford a strong evidence base for practice recommendation.


WWE face health issues for which there is no available outcome literature to guide decision making. The urgent need for studies in many of these areas is highlighted by expanded treatment options with new AEDs and epilepsy surgery.

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