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Study calls for action to reduce maternal deaths


New research has found that epilepsy mortality is a significant risk in pregnancy. Researchers from King’s College estimated the risk at 1:1000 maternities and have called for pro-active management to make every attempt to prevent seizures, particularly convulsive seizures.  

The research which looked at data reported to the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths against epilepsy-rates in pregnancy found 14 maternal deaths in just under 14,000 maternities in women with epilepsy.

Researchers found that most of the women who died were on Lamotrigine and have stressed the importance of good medicines management. The Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths which investigated the deaths found that the fact that levels of Lamotrigine fall during pregnancy did not appear to be well understood and that medicines management was not satisfactory in many of the deaths.

Reports of the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths have also alerted to the need for women to be aware of the risk of SUDEP as this accounted for the majority of deaths.

Jane Hanna from SUDEP Action commented: “This research highlights the importance of ongoing surveillance of deaths in women with epilepsy and in particular good medicines management involving the patient”. 

“This is not a new problem, we are aware of several cases where women have died of SUDEP in pregnancy. Kristen Dandy had been diagnosed with epilepsy when she was nearly 15 years old. Her epilepsy had been fairly well controlled with medication and she had 1 or 2 seizures a year on average. This changed when she became pregnant. Her seizures became more frequent, and also happened during sleep rather than during the day.  Kristen died of SUDEP aged 25, when she was 8 months pregnant.”

Follow the link to the full study by Edey S; Moran N and Nashef L. SUDEP and Epilepsy mortality in pregnancy: Epilepsia [Epilepsia] 2014 Apr 22. 

Also visit the Findings on Maternal Epilepsy Deaths page.