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Worse anxiety, depression symptoms in pregnant women with epilepsy

Woman holding pregnant belly

A study of 535 pregnant women found that those with epilepsy had more and worse depression symptoms as well as worse anxiety symptoms.

Natalia Deriabina/

By Erin Digitale


Women with epilepsy experience more anxiety and depression symptoms during and after pregnancy than other women, according to a new study led by researchers at Stanford Medicine.

The study will be published online Aug. 17 in Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study, which tracked more than 300 women with epilepsy during and after their pregnancies, expands researchers’ knowledge of how epilepsy interacts with mental health conditions. Scientists already knew that having epilepsy puts people at greater risk for depression, and vice versa, likely due to overlap in the brain networks involved in the two disorders. Pregnancy and the postpartum period are also well-known triggers of depression and anxiety. But the intersection of all three states — pregnancy, epilepsy and mood disorders — was poorly understood.

“We found that women with epilepsy have increased risk for mood and anxiety disorders during pregnancy,” said Kimford Meador, MD, professor of neurology at the Stanford School of Medicine. “This makes it more important to monitor their well-being while they are pregnant.”