Counseling by epileptologists affects contraceptive choices of women with epilepsy

Alyssa R. Espinera, Jay Gavvala, Irena Bellinski, Jeffrey Kennedy, Micheal P. Macken, Aditi Narechania, Jessica Templer, Stephen VanHaerents, Stephan U. Schuele, Elizabeth E. Gerard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Introduction There are several important interactions between antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) and hormonal contraception that need to be carefully considered by women with epilepsy (WWE) and their practitioners. Many AEDs induce hepatic enzymes and decrease the efficacy of hormonal contraception. In addition, estrogen-containing hormonal contraception can increase the metabolism of lamotrigine, the most commonly prescribed AED in women of childbearing age. The intrauterine device (IUD) is a highly effective form of reversible contraception without AED drug interactions that is considered by many to be the contraceptive of choice for WWE. Women with epilepsy not planning pregnancy require effective contraceptive counseling that should include discussion of an IUD. There are no guidelines, however, on who should deliver these recommendations. The objective of this study was to explore the hypothesis that contraceptive counseling by a neurologist can influence the contraceptive choices of WWE. In particular, we explored the relationship between contraceptive counseling in the epilepsy clinic and the likelihood that patients would obtain an IUD. Methods We conducted a retrospective chart review of female patients age 18–45 seen at our institution for an initial visit between 2010 and 2014 to ascertain the type of contraceptive counseling each patient received as well as AED use and contraceptive methods. Patients who were pregnant or planning pregnancy at the first visit were excluded from further analyses as were patients with surgical sterilization. We also examined a subgroup of 95 patients with at least 4 follow-up visits to evaluate the efficacy of epileptologists’ counseling. Specifically, we looked at the likelihood a patient obtained an IUD based on the type of counseling she had received. Fisher exact tests assessed associations between counseling type and whether patients had obtained an IUD. Results Three hundred and ninety-seven women met criteria for inclusion. Only 35% of female patients were counseled about contraception at the first visit. If women were not counseled at the first visit, they were unlikely to be counseled at subsequent visits; only 37% had ever received counseling by their fourth visit. Of the 95 patients who completed 4 visits, 28.4% were counseled about an IUD as an optimal contraceptive choice, 38.9% were generally counseled about contraceptive interactions, and 32.6% were not counseled about contraception. Women with epilepsy who received IUD-specific counseling were significantly more likely to switch to an IUD (44.4%) compared with women who received no contraceptive counseling (6.5%; p = 0.0009). Women with epilepsy who received IUD-specific counseling also tended to switch to an IUD more often than those women receiving general counseling about AEDs and contraceptive interactions (18.9%; p = 0.027). There was no significant difference in the likelihood of acquiring an IUD between the general counseling and no counseling groups. Conclusions Contraceptive counseling by epileptologists and specific mention of an IUD is significantly associated with patient selection of an IUD as a contraceptive method. This suggests that neurologists can play an important role in patients’ contraceptive choices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Antiepileptic
  • Contraception
  • Contraceptive counseling
  • Epilepsy
  • Intrauterine device (IUD)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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