Here’s a bit of information from the epilepsy action website to put the risks of AEDs on the unborn baby and inheritance of epilepsy in perspective…
Anti-epileptic drugs and the epilepsy itself put the baby at a slightly increased risk of major congenital malformations that need medical treatment for example spina bifida, a hole in the heart or cleft palate. The risk seems to be greatest during the first three months of pregnancy.
One or two babies in every hundred born to women without epilepsy have a major congenital malformation. If you have epilepsy and don’t take AEDs the risk is around two in a hundred
Different anti-epileptic drugs carry different risks and there is an epilepsy pregnancy register to gather more information about the risks, sodium valproate in particular is associated with an increased risk of major birth defects. The risks are increased if you take more than one type of anti-epileptic drug.
Babies born to women with epilepsy have a slightly higher risk of having a minor congenital abnormality, for example, small fingers, small toenails, and facial abnormalities such as wide spread eyes.
When planning a family all women in the UK are advised to take a folic acid supplement. It is recommended that women with epilepsy take 5 mgs of folic acid every day for at least three months before you conceive and continued throughout the pregnancy. Folic acid is a vitamin which helps protect against neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
In the general population 1 in 103 people have epilepsy. Less than one child in every 10 born to a parent with epilepsy will develop epilepsy. There are three different ways in which epilepsy can be inherited:
- A person’s low epileptic seizure threshold may be passed to the next generation through the genes.
- Some types of epilepsy seem to run in families, for example, juvenile myoclonic epilepsy.
- Epilepsy can be one of the symptoms of another inherited medical condition, for example, tuberous sclerosis.