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Caring for women with epilepsy

October 07, 2016 | John Murray
UCI Health neurologist Mona Sazgar, MD

Epilepsy affects approximately 1 percent of the population. In the United States, that adds up to about 3 million people. Half of those are women, and of those about 24,000 give birth each year.

“Studies show that most healthcare professionals do not know that sex hormones can affect seizures in women, and many could not report which seizure medications can cause contraceptive failure,” says UCI Health epileptologist Mona Sazgar, MD.

Hormones' role in female epilepsy

In a new video, "Caring for women with epilepsy," Sazgar explains how the hormones can affect women with epilepsy, and what women and healthcare providers should know about seizure medications, pregnancy, birth control and more.

“Healthcare professionals must be aware of the challenges for women,” Sazgar says. “Comprehensive epilepsy care should address the unique problems at every stage of a woman’s life.”

The video covers topics such as:

  • Sex hormones and epileptic seizure, including the effect of estrogen and progesterone
  • How epilepsy medication affects the production of sex hormones
  • Catamenial epilepsy and fluctuations with the menstrual cycle
  • Whether epilepsy drugs interfere with breastfeeding or birth control drugs
  • Considerations about taking epilepsy medication during pregnancy

Sazgar has also recently published a book intended to help physicians navigate the issues of caring for women with epilepsy. In "Controversies in Caring for Women with Epilepsy," Sazgar and co-editor Dr. Cynthia Harden seek to provide more clarity by addressing controversial cases related to adolescence, pre-conception, pregnancy and menopause with experts invited to offer their differing views. 

Treatment consensus based on evidence

“We looked at various clinical approaches and attempted to build a consensus based on the best available evidence,” she says. “The goal is to offer treating clinicians with insight on providing the best possible care based on current available data and expert opinion.”

Sazgar is certified in epilepsy, clinical neurophysiology and neurology by the American Board of Psychiatry & Neurology. The UCI Health Comprehensive Epilepsy Program is a national leader in the diagnosis and delivery of advanced epilepsy care, with the expertise, tools and technology to improve patient’s quality of life.

The program holds a Level 4 designation — the highest level — from the National Association of Epilepsy Centers.


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