When E and I first decided to try for a baby we did some research online. We found there was plenty of information for improving conception and fertility but none about doing this with Epilepsy. I tweeted some Epilepsy charities but they could only offer us insight into pregnancy and safe guarding children once they have been born. Once again there is a gap in the information available for those with Epilepsy who are trying for babies. I think this is a real shame, especially as women with Epilepsy have a greater risk of suffering from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Since starting this blog and the twitter account I’ve had a few people messaging me to ask what I’m doing to try to increase my fertility and the chance of conception. I’m in no way an expert but I decided to write a post surrounding these Epilepsy related fertility questions. This blog will just be a small insight into what I’m taking/eating/doing to get my body in the best possible shape and thus improve fertility/chance of conception.
- FOLIC ACID.
I have been on a variety of different Epilepsy Medication. A lot of these were some of the worst meds to be on in terms of side effects. My Neurologist prescribed me a higher dose (5 milligrams as opposed to 400-600 micrograms normally prescribed) of Folic Acid to counteract these side effects . Folic Acid doesn’t just lessen the effects of the medication on my body but is actually a prenatal vitamin too. This meant that not only am I protected but if I had become pregnant unexpectedly this would lessen the effect of my medication on the baby/reduce the risk of Spina Bifida. I would recommend talking to your Doctor before you start taking Folic Acid though, not just because you’ll need a prescription for the higher dose but it can affect how well certain Epilepsy medication work. Folic Acid can be found in certain foods such as vegetables, citrus fruit, fortified cereals and grains too. So if you didn’t want to take more tablets then just eat more of the above! Folic Acid is generally recommended to be taken by all women before and during pregnancy to ensure an all round healthier pregnancy.
It’s been shown in various studies that a protein rich and lower carb diet could increase fertility and thus conception. This is because Protein improves egg quality. White meat ie chicken, fish, eggs and beans are great sources of of protein. I’m not a huge meat eater as I don’t like strong meat flavours and I really don’t like fish or eggs, so I admit I do find this hard. To get more protein I’ve increased the amount of meals I make with chicken and have started adding beans/peas/lentils to meals too. Overall I am feeling a lot better after making these dietary changes and my blood sugar isn’t dipping as much, which is one of my seizure triggers, so that’s another bonus! So although increasing the amount of protein in your diet isn’t directly something only Epilepsy ladies should think about doing I do recommend it. Afterall a healthy body is only ever a good thing right?!
- OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS.
Epilepsy is a horrid medical condition as that it doesn’t just affect your brain. You don’t just have a Tonic-Clonic seizure, get up and feel fine. Recovery time is needed and the list of knock on effects of seizures is endless. Seizures affect my hormones meaning my body is often out of sorts for couple of days after. Fatty acids such as Omega 3 keep hormones functioning properly thus doesn’t just help regulate hormones after a seizure but helps with the chance of conception. During pregnancy Omega 3 also aids brain development in a baby, which is never a bad thing, especially as many Epilepsy medications can affect the development of the brain. I’m aiming to eat more things such as trail mix and dried fruit as these are a good source of Omega 3 but it can be found in fish too, which is also a good source of protein as above!
Generally dairy products are great to take whilst trying to conceive as they are a source of Calcium (which is good for bones just as Folic Acid is) and Protein (the benefits of which I touched upon previously). I read somewhere that a recent study showed that swapping one portion of skimmed milk for full fat milk serving a day can increase chance of pregnancy as it decreases the chance of a certain type of infertility. I can’t say how this accurate this is but as milk is a good source of Calcium which can counteract some sideffects of Epilepsy meds just as Folic Acid can, it has to be worth a go surely!
- FRUIT AND VEGETABLES.
Eating a lot of junk food and sweets is bad for your body but we all know that don’t we?! These types of food have no nutritional benefits and are harmful to your body. This is because things such as junk food and sweets contain trans fats which increase inflammation in the body, they can also lead to spikes in blood sugar levels. This is bad as your body needs a stable environment to nurture a baby. Eating more vegetables and fruit increases the level of essential nutrients and antioxidants in your body, this is good not just for your health but during pregnancy more of these will be needed to keep you both healthy. I have noticed when I eat too much sugary stuff my blood sugar drops after a few hours and I become quite prone to Absence Seizures. So in a bid to eat more vegetables I’ve recently bought lots of stir fry ingredients as they are a yummy way to get a good portion of vegetables and chicken for added protein. I also bought big pack of raisins to eat as a healthy snack alternative with added bonus of them being a source of Omega 3 too!
- LOSING WEIGHT
Being overweight can greatly affect your fertility. Another study I recently read recommended that if you are overweight, you shouldn’t try to lose more than one pound a week. This is because although being overweight affects your likelihood of conception, drastically cutting calories and exercising too much will also affect your ability to get pregnant as well your body will struggle to support another life as it adjusts to dietary changes. With this in mind I have started to be a bit more active ie going out for longer walks with the dog and trying to make better food decisions but I won’t be stressing out if I have a treat. Being a bit more active has made me feel a lot better in regards to my mental health anyway so that’s a bonus!
- CUTTING OUT/DOWN ON ALCOHOL INTAKE
This is a bit of a no brainer in my opinion afterall during pregnancy it’s not recommended you drink more than a small class of wine a week, if that. A lot of people with Epilepsy don’t drink alcohol anyway as it increases the risk of a seizure between 6-48 hours after drinking! I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never had a seizure after drinking alcohol. I do however get to the point after one or two drinks where I don’t want to drink anymore. With this mind I decided to cut my alcohol intake down even more. I don’t really enjoy drinking except the odd glass of wine with dinner so really it’s not a huge loss to me. I’ve recently had a huge increase in Tonic Clonic seizures and as alcohol decreases the amount of seizure medication in your body it seemed like a sensible step I could take to get my seizures a little bit more under control.
So there we have it. The things I’m doing to increase our chance of conception. None of it is really extreme and can be introduced quite easily into daily routines. Let me know in comments below of on twitter if you have anymore suggestions!
Blog/Tweet ya soon x