Here’s a guest post from Jessica Keenan Smith, who blogs about living with epilepsy and related topics here As she explains, “I was diagnosed more than 25 years ago and I am passionate about finding innovative ways to communicate on the topic. I like everyone else living under the big E, struggle everyday with my share of ups and downs as a result.”
A recent study published in the journal, Neurology, addresses the fact that women taking multiple medications to treat epilepsy are at high risk for infertility. This may well be true, but considering anticonvulsants or medicine to control epilepsy often reduces the efficacy of the Pill, there are plenty of mommies with epilepsy out there that had unplanned pregnancies. This does not exactly correspond to the headlines on WebMD, Reuters and other news outlets claiming that women with epilepsy are more likely to be infertile.
In a follow up article in Neurology, Alison Pack, MD, attempts to dispel the myth already setting in:
Studies suggest that women with epilepsy (WWE) have reduced fertility rates when compared to the general population. Wallace and colleagues, using the General Practice Research Database in the United Kingdom, reported that fertility rates among women with epilepsy were 33% lower than in women in the general population. Not all studies have demonstrated such findings, however. In their population-based study in Iceland, Olafsson and colleagues found no evidence of reduced fertility in WWE. All previously published studies assessing fertility rates in WWE are retrospective.
November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. In the past, the month has gone by with barely a peep from organizations that consider it their mission, quite literally, to raise epilepsy awareness. One would think that November would be a good time to stand up and shout to the world, “Hey, don’t forget about the 50 million people around the globe suffering with epilepsy.” Epilepsy Foundation offices around the country are quietly sponsoring local events, conferences and walks to celebrate epilepsy awareness. With a little help they might be able to raise the public consciousness.
In the meantime, women with epilepsy are struggling with more myths, rather than increased infertility.