Epilepsy Information

Baby's Health

Baby's Health

Over 90% of babies born to women with epilepsy will be healthy.

Women with epilepsy are usually concerned about what effect it will have on their baby’s health.  Although low, the birth defect rate of babies born to women with epilepsy is still about twice (4-7%) that of the rate found in the general population (1.6-3.2%).  And, this number may be higher if pregnancies are not carefully planned. 

It is important to know what birth defects could develop. They fall into two major categories:

1. Major Malformations - birth defects with surgical, medical, and cosmetic importance.
 The most common major malformations in children of women with epilepsy are:
• Cleft lip or cleft palate
• Congenital heart defects
• Neuronal tube defects (spina bifida) – babies may have some degree of leg paralysis and bladder or bowel-control problems

2. Minor Malformations - birth defects that present no threat to the baby’s health such as:
• Unusual facial features
• Finger/toe abnormalities

Some other problems that may occur more frequently in babies of women with epilepsy:
• Increased risk of late fetal loss (after 20th week of pregnancy)
• Higher infant mortality (stillbirths)
• Intrauterine growth retardation (less than 10 percent of predicted fetal weight for the age of an embryofetus or newborn infant)
• Increased risk for a bleeding disorder in the baby during first 24 hours after delivery
• Increased risk for developmental delay and learning disability
• Increased risk for epilepsy (3%, which is a three times higher risk than in the general population) in children whose mothers, but not fathers, have epilepsy
• Smaller head size

What should you do?
• Plan your pregnancy! Discuss your plans with your obstetrician/gynecologist and with your neurologist/epileptologist as early as possible. Follow up closely with your physicians during pregnancy. Start taking folic acid and prenatal vitamins prior to pregnancy.

• Discuss the possibility of genetic counseling, especially if there is a history of birth defects in family.

For a list of each individual AED and the potential effect on the baby CLICK HERE