Providing contraceptive advice to women with epilepsy can be complex. It is therefore important for the healthcare professional to have some understanding of epilepsy when trying to establish best practice in contraceptive care.
Seizures have been described as ‘paroxysmal, motor, sensory or cognitive manifestations of spontaneous, abnormally synchronous discharges of collections of neurons in the cerebral cortex of the brain.’1
During a seizure, the nerve impulses in the brain are uncoordinated and much stronger than normal. This can lead to symptoms such as a change in behaviour, sensation, muscle function or motor control and, in some cases, a loss of consciousness or state of confusion.2
The exact cause of seizures can be hard to pinpoint, but many can be classified as provoked (stemming from a metabolic condition such as a febrile convulsion or an injury to the brain or central nervous system) or unprovoked (without an identifiable cause).3
They are categorised into three major types – focal (partial), generalised and unclassified – depending on what happens to the person during an episode. Most people will only have one or two seizure types, which may vary in severity.