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October 11th, 2010
04:01 PM ET

Women with epilepsy may have a harder time conceiving

A study in the journal Neurology finds women with epilepsy may have a harder time conceiving than women without the disorder.  Epilepsy results from the generation of electrical signals inside the brain, causing recurring seizures.

Researchers in India followed 375 women with epilepsy who were trying to get pregnant. The women were followed for a decade. They found 38 percent of the women failed to conceive. When researchers broke down the data even more, they found 7 percent infertility for women taking no antiepileptic drugs (AED) , 32 percent for women taking 1 AED, nearly 41 percent for women taking two 2 AED's and 60 percent for women taking 3 or more AEDs.

Researchers say women who took phenobarbital to treat their epilepsy were more likely to be infertile.  Researchers say it is important to put the study into perspective. "Two-thirds of women with epilepsy, particularly younger women who have milder epilepsy, do not have much problem," wrote lead researcher Dr. Sanjeev V. Thomas in an email to CNN.  Thomas hopes this could lead to new ways to treat women with epilepsy who want to have a baby.  "It may be possible to modify the antiepileptic drug therapy to improve chances of pregnancy," says Thomas.


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soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Don

    People with severe and possibly life-threatening genetic disorders, including but not limited to epilepsy, should not be conceiving (or siring children) period. I say this not to be cruel; I know for a fact that many (even most) people affected by such illnesses would make excellent parents, and I have absolutely nothing against them. Gambling with a child's future with and further polluting the gene pool is not something that should be encouraged. Please consider adoption before inflicting another generation with your illness.

    October 11, 2010 at 16:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nina

      Don:

      "Polluting the gene pool"....I think Hitler felt the same way. As a matter of fact, he did, and as a result, people with seizure disorders were sent to death camps.

      How do you feel about cancer survivors? Dyslexics? Bald people?

      How is it to live in BLISS? That's the only place your ignorance might possibly be accepted. That or Nazi Germany.

      BTW, I dislike hangnails. You should add that to your list.

      October 11, 2010 at 17:59 | Report abuse |
    • Sunny

      Um, I have epilepsy from a brain injury. Am I allowed to have kids even though I'm on AEDs?

      October 11, 2010 at 22:57 | Report abuse |
    • erica1112

      I hope that Don isn't reproducing. No doubt that stupidity and ignorance has a genetic component. I think we remember what happened to Hitler when his dreams of a master race didn't quite come to fruition. Just saying!

      October 12, 2010 at 14:21 | Report abuse |
    • GuessAgain

      I'm sad to say you don't really understand genetics. Not everything outwardly apparent is transmissible to one's children and there are many genetic disorders that can crop up with basically no prior warning. Perfectly healthy people can have sick babies and vice-versa, it's partly by chance what you end up with.

      If people truly aren't fit to reproduce, they will fail at it->that's how nature works.

      If people have children that aren't fit to survive, they won't survive (or reproduce)->it doesn't matter how good of a medical team you have.

      So stop playing God with your holy concepts of the "gene pool" and let people make their own life choices.

      October 13, 2010 at 14:50 | Report abuse |
    • whatnext

      Oh, epilepsy has a 100% transmission rate to one's kids? Thanks for filling us in, Dr. Don. My girlfriend put herself through Cornell, from where she studied overseas on a Rhodes scholarship, and UMichigan Law. Years later she came down with epilepsy after an injury. I wouldn't want her "polluting the gene pool." Now please get a vasectomy.

      October 13, 2010 at 16:47 | Report abuse |
    • LS

      Are you familiar with the eugenics movement? Because that was such a great success.

      October 14, 2010 at 00:05 | Report abuse |
    • LS

      If your IQ is under 110 you shouldn't have kids either. Wouldn't want idiots polluting the gene pool.
      ps. IQ is largely genetic. Even more so than most disorders, including epilepsy

      October 14, 2010 at 00:08 | Report abuse |
  2. what?

    To Don, first of all passing epilepsy down to a child is less than a ten percent chance and for people whose seizures are controlled by medicine it can be less time consuming than something like diabetes, anxiety, depression...and less traumatizing to the kid. Obviously if their seizures are so out of control they should consider twice, but with many medications, brain surgery options and other medical revelations constantly being made telling someone with epilepsy not to have kids just doesn't happen anymore. It will also likely be cured within the next couple of decades. I have nothing against people like you, who think they know what is best for everyone, but please consider thinking before inflicting society with your mindless ignorance. If I wanted to be as thoughtless and general as you I could say stupid people should consider adoption before multiplying, but who would operate cash registers?

    October 11, 2010 at 17:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Cassie@Conceive

    Thanks for sharing! I was looking around for trying to conceive sites and really like the site so far, bookmarked for later =D

    October 12, 2010 at 23:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. kaytee

    For starters, phenobarbital is rarely used in Western countries anymore because although it can be very effective the side effects are horrific. it's mostly confined to developing countries like India because it's cheap, and big pharma don't like their newer (read: expensive) drugs going somewhere where there's no profit to be made. So "modifying the AED" to help with fertility is not going to be a particularly easy option for many in developing countries, since their drug options are limited, and the older (cheaper) AEDs are the ones that are condraindicated in pregnancy anyway because of the birth defects they can cause.

    October 13, 2010 at 02:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Cassie@ Conceive

    Thanks for sharing- I really like the article. I was looking around and the site is great so far!

    October 13, 2010 at 15:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Alan Vonderhaar

    I have fully-controlled epilepsy for which no cause was found (idiopathic epilepsy), and when I was studying nursing a few years ago I learned much about genetics. There are many causes of epilepsy- brain tumors, trauma, recessive or dominant genetic mutations or deletions of portions of chromosomes or genes that are important to the brain and that have been implicated in causing epilepsy, or after diseases like meningitis. It is true that some couples, especially in which one or both individuals have very severe, life-threatening forms of epilepsy resistant to drug or surgical therapy (involving seizures that spread through the brain and which might not stop on their own) do forego having children, either after genetic testing and/or medical advice, or of their own accord. Nevertheless, that is a complex bioethical decision that by its nature is done by the potential parents on the advice of the health care team on a case by case basis. Newer drugs like valproic acid (late 1960s-1970s) or gabapentin (early 1990s)- some of those are old enough now that they should be available worldwide at least in some clinics- do not carry as much risk for birth defects or liver or renal damage, if I remember the drug information packets right.

    October 13, 2010 at 23:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Henry Lahore

    Seems as simple as adding 1+1
    * 1 Vitamin D deficiency is known to increase with use of anti-epileptic drugs(external link)
    * 1 Vitamin D deficiency is known to increase problems of conception
    * 1+1 = People* using anti-epileptic drugs will have problems conceiving
    *People = woman AND man BOTH need enough vitamin D
    Details along with links to references are at VitaminDwiki (CNN does not permit adding the direct link)

    October 15, 2010 at 12:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Conceive

    Thanks for sharing, I was looking around and really like the site so far ! Great article.

    October 19, 2010 at 17:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Harlei

    I need help me and my fiancee (boy) have been trying over a year and I have epilepsy there called gran mal seizure..it makes me feel like it's my fault please help me ....I tried folic acid everything having sex more I don't know...just please help me

    January 17, 2016 at 22:38 | Report abuse | Reply

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