Skip to main content

Quick Tips: Epilepsy, Menstruation, and Ovulation

Quick Tips: Epilepsy, Menstruation, and Ovulation

I had my first seizure—a grand mal—when I was five years old. When my parents found me, my lips were blue, my eyes were rolled back, and my entire body was shaking. I was diagnosed with encephalitis. The virus had traveled to my brain, causing me to go into a four-day coma. The doctors thought that when I came out of the coma I would probably have some degree of brain damage.

My parents sat by my bedside and prayed. On the fourth day, my father looked up to find my eyes wide open. The first thing out of my mouth was “Can I have McDonald's fries?” I sustained no brain damage, but the encephalitis left scar tissue in my brain, resulting in epilepsy.

My seizures came only occasionally as a child, until my hormones started to change.

I learned from my doctor—Orrin Devinsky, M.D. professor of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine and director of the NYU/Mount Sinai Comprehensive Epilepsy Center—that the reason for increased seizures around the time of ovulation and the premenstrual phase is thought to be primarily an increase in the ratio of estrogen to progesterone. Hormones don't cause seizures, but they can influence when seizures occur.

According to Dr. Devinsky, “When seizures occur exclusively or predominantly around the time of menses or ovulation (catamenial epilepsy), which they do for many women, it is especially important to maintain good sleep and avoid alcohol—certainly less than two beverages per day—during those times. For some women, a temporary increase in medication can be helpful if their menstrual cycle is regular. The use of hormonal therapy such as progesterone to prevent seizures remains more of a potential than a proven strategy, and we lack data to show that progesterone is definitely effective or safe as a long-term treatment for epilepsy around the time of menses or ovulation. For women with catamenial epilepsy, even removal of the ovaries and womb does not stop seizures, so effective antiepileptic drugs and a healthy lifestyle remain our best approach to help control seizures.”

Another thing I learned over the years is that our doctors can only do so much. If we don't help ourselves, then we can't expect to get better. Here are tips that I have developed for managing epilepsy.

1. Track Your Seizures: I use a seizure diary to track my seizures on an ongoing basis. For every seizure I experience, I write down the type of seizure and when it occurred. This information can help give your doctor a better idea of where the seizures are coming from. You can find a good seizure diary at

2. Review Your Seizure Diary: I review my seizure diary each month to find patterns and ask myself questions. Did my seizures mostly happen in the morning, in the afternoon, or at night? Was I doing anything different during those times? Were most of the seizures focal, partial, or grand mal? Did my body swing to a certain side?

3. Track Menstruation and Ovulation: I keep track of my menstruation and ovulation on a wall calendar near my desk. I usually menstruate every 28 days, so I highlight the 28th day and circle four days before and four days after that day. I do the same for ovulation. During this time I'm careful where I go and what I do, because my chances of having a seizure are higher.

4. Maintain a Healthy Diet: Since I have been watching what I eat and exercising regularly, I have lost weight and my seizures have decreased quite a bit. According to Dr Devinsky, “evidence suggests that regular exercise and stress reduction can improve seizure control for some people.”

5. Take Your Medication: This is the most important piece of advice I can give. Taking your medication on time is very important, especially during menstruation and ovulation.

6. Lower Stress: For me, stress can bring on seizures, especially during menstruation and ovulation. Therefore, I try not to let minor problems, past mistakes, or worries about the future upset me too much. I try to enjoy the moment and focus on the present.

7. Set Aside “Me” Time: Take some time to relax: Take a bubble bath, meditate, or read a book. A little quality time can help you wind down and remember to do the things that keep you healthy. You'd be surprised how many things can affect epilepsy—negatively and positively—so take some time to recharge.

8. Keep a Positive Attitude: Yes, you have epilepsy. But has the disorder changed you for the better in any ways? Have you become stronger as a person? Would you be as caring to others with conditions and disabilities? I think my disorder has made me a better person.

Stacey Chillemi is the author of Epilepsy: You're Not Alone (, 2010).

Copyright © 2010, AAN Enterprises, Inc.
1 comment

Popular posts from this blog

What Is Continuous Spike-Wave in Slow Wave Sleep Syndrome? (A RARE EPILEPSY)

Image via Wikipedia Continuous spike-wave in slow wave sleep syndrome (CSWS) is a rare epilepsy syndrome in which children lose a wide range of developmental abilities, including language, motor skills, memory, and visuospatial skills. This syndrome occurs in school-aged children. Development prior to onset of CSWS may be normal, but children with CSWS often have some pre-existing learning difficulties. In many children there is no known cause of epilepsy, although some children are found to have abnormal brain formation or have a prior history of brain infection. We still do not understand how these structural changes result in the continuous EEG discharge.

Many, but not all, children with CSWS also have seizures. There can be many different seizure types, including absence, generalized tonic-clonic, and focal seizures. The seizures can be difficult to treat. Even in those who already had learning difficulties, there is a clear loss of skills across multiple deve…

Vitamin B12: The Most Important Nutrient You Need

Image via Wikipedia
Image by icethim via Flickr If you aren’t getting enough vitamin B12, it is indeed very important – and you may very well not be thinking about it. One reason you aren’t thinking about it is that we tend to fall in (and out!) of love with one nutrient at a time (such as vitamin C, beta carotene, lycopene and so on), and vitamin B12 isn’t the nutrient du jour. But the other reason you may not be thinking about it is … because you can’t. A deficiency of vitamin B12 can limit your ability to think clearly about anything! (More on that momentarily.)
Like all vitamins, B12 is an organic compound, made from carbons (as opposed to minerals, which are inorganic), and essential for our normal metabolic function and health. Also, like most vitamins, B12 plays a wide variety of roles in our metabolism. The short list of important effects B12 has on your health includes these: Vitamin B12 is essential for the manufacture of red blood cells; a deficiency leads to a cha…

Aloe Vera - diabetes, asthma, epilepsy, burns, sunburns, psoriasis and osteoarthritis

Introduction This fact sheet provides basic information about aloe vera—common names, uses, potential side effects, and resources for more information. Aloe vera's use can be traced back 6,000 years to early Egypt, where the plant was depicted on stone carvings. Known as the "plant of immortality," aloe was presented as a burial gift to deceased pharaohs.
What Aloe Vera Is Used ForTraditionally, aloe was used topically to heal wounds and for various skin conditions, and orally as a laxative.Today, in addition to traditional uses, people take aloe orally to treat a variety of conditions, including diabetes, asthma, epilepsy, and osteoarthritis. People use aloe topically for osteoarthritis, burns, sunburns, and psoriasis.Aloe vera gel can be found in hundreds of skin products, including lotions and sunblocks.The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved aloe vera as a natural food flavoring. Aloe vera ...Lô Hội, Nha Đam..#1 (Photo credit: Vietnam Plants &…