Public Release: 

Epilepsy Drugs Can Lead To Unplanned Pregnancy

Johns Hopkins Medicine

JHU Medical Institutions

Epilepsy Drugs Can Lead To Unplanned Pregnancy

A Johns Hopkins study has found that more than 1 in 5 neurologists and obstetricians had patients with epilepsy who developed unwanted pregnancies because their anti-epilepsy drugs interfered with their birth control pills.

Several seizure drugs interfere with contraceptive pills and implants by accelerating the breakdown of an artificial sex hormone used to block conception. The drugs also can increase the risk of birth defects.

"These are known side effects of the seizure medications, but our survey showed they are not appreciated by doctors," says Greg Krauss, M.D., an assistant professor of neurology, who conducted the survey after five epilepsy patients with unplanned pregnancies were referred to him in two years.

Krauss' paper in the June issue of Neurology provided a list of eight steps for doctors treating sexually active female epilepsy patients. Doctors can decrease the risk of unplanned pregnancy by increasing birth control medication levels. Depending upon the type of epilepsy, some patients may be able to switch to drugs that don't interfere with birth control pills. Patients also can use other barrier methods of contraception to further reduce risk.

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