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Keywords:

  • Epilepsy;
  • Women;
  • Hormones;
  • Pregnancy;
  • Antiepileptic drugs;
  • Breastmilk;
  • Menopause;
  • Malformations

Summary:  Although most female-specific considerations for treatment of epilepsy cannot be answered by Class I evidence, significant progress in our knowledge base has occurred in the past few years. Open-label studies of progesterone supplementation showed promising results; an ongoing randomized trial may provide definitive evidence for therapeutic use of progesterone in women. A randomized trial of hormone replacement therapy demonstrated a dose-related increase in seizure frequency in postmenopausal women with epilepsy. The use of different AED regimens during pregnancy cannot be explored with randomized, controlled trials; we must rely on the best available evidence from ongoing observational studies. The consistent findings of large prospective pregnancy registries reveal a consistent pattern of amplified risk for major congenital malformations in pregnancies exposed to valproate. These registries have also highlighted the concern for the effect of shifting hormones on AED concentrations. An increased frequency of seizures during pregnancy has been noted with lamotrigine (LTG) and oxcarabazepine, both of which undergo glucuronidation. Other studies have demonstrated an increased clearance of LTG during pregnancy and with exogenous estrogen use. It may be prudent to closely monitor serum concentrations of these AEDs with hormonal changes. An increased risk for neurodevelopmental consequences has been demonstrated for the fetus exposed to AED polytherapy, valproic acid, or frequent maternal convulsive seizures. Preliminary information about breastfeeding with LTG and levetiracetam is available. These newly released findings provide the tools to begin to practice evidence-based medicine when treating our female patients during their reproductive and postmenopausal years.