80 Epileptic pregnant women die per 100K pregnancies every year, says study

Pregnant women with epilepsy might have greater risk of serious complications and death when giving birth reveals a study published in the journal JAMA Neurology.

For those who don’t know: epilepsy is a brain disorder marked by abnormal nerve cell activities that eventually lead to seizures. According to latest reports, nearly 3 million children and adults in the United States are currently suffering from this condition. The number of new epilepsy cases diagnosed every year, on the other hand, is around 150,000.

The research team conducting this new study had Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Sarah MacDonald as one of its members. MacDonald reported that nearly 0.3 to 0.5% pregnancies take place in women suffering from epilepsy.


It’s true that during the study MacDonald and her colleagues got to know that epilepsy tend to increase a pregnant woman’s chances of facing delivery-related complications like preterm birth and fetal injury. However, they made it clear that the data available to them was inadequate to quantify these risks.

They said that as the United States is home to almost half million female epilepsy patients of reproductive age and approximately 25,000 babies are born to these patients every year, it’s important to comprehend the pregnancy-related risks in these women.

To address the data gap, the researchers analyzed hospital records of nearly 4.2 million women in the United States who had their babies between the years 2007 and 2011. Out of these 4.2 million women, just 14.151 were epilepsy patients.

Applying these numbers nationally, the researchers state that their study is represented by 69,385 female epilepsy patients and 20,449,532 women who didn’t have the condition.


During the course of the study, the research team recorded occurrence of different delivery complications such as cesarean delivery, preeclampsia, preterm birth, maternal death and still birth. They also assessed the duration for which the woman had to stay in the hospital before, during and after delivery. The analyses revealed that maternal death was much more common among pregnant women suffering from epilepsy than the ones without the condition.

While among women without epilepsy the rate of death was only six per 100,000 pregnancies, the rate was as high as 80 per 100,000 pregnancies among women suffering from the brain disorder. This means the risk of maternal death was more than 10 times higher in pregnant women with epilepsy.

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