Female teenagers with epilepsy ‘need more advice on contraception’

Healthcare providers have been called upon to offer more guidance and support to improve the contraceptive experiences of female teens with epilepsy.

A team from the Ibis Reproductive Health centre in Cambridge, Massachusetts conducted an online survey involving 114 people, as well as 12 online focus group discussions with 26 female teens with epilepsy, about their perceptions of using contraceptives and their unmet needs.

It was observed that many of those questioned expressed concerns about potential interactions between epilepsy medications and hormonal contraceptives, as they believe this could lead to reductions in contraceptive efficacy and seizure control.

However, their actual practical knowledge of these types of medication interactions was often incomplete, which made it difficult for them to make educated decisions. Indeed, many study participants said their confusion over these issues meant they often avoided using hormonal contraceptives altogether, due to worries over potential side effects.

Study participants generally reported being reliant on healthcare providers and parents for contraceptive decision-making support, with focus group subjects specifically stating a desire for healthcare providers to provide more in-depth and comprehensive counselling about contraception, as well as additional peer support on contraceptive decisions.

The researchers concluded: “The ability to make informed contraceptive decisions is important for teens with epilepsy as interactions between antiepileptic drugs and hormonal contraceptives can impact seizure occurrence and lead to an increased risk of unplanned pregnancy.

“Guidance for providers offering contraceptive care to this population is needed, as well as a contraceptive support tool that empowers teens with epilepsy to advocate for desired health care.”

Some anti-epilepsy medicines have a side effect of increasing the speed at which certain contraceptive pills and injections are processed by the liver, an issue that can affect the overall efficacy of the birth control aid.

Anti-epilepsy drugs such as carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine, phenobarbital, phenytoin, primidone and topiramate are among those that fit into the category of liver enzyme inducers. Patients with concerns over such matters should seek out professional medical advice.

Posted by Bob Jones

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