Postpartum Care for Mothers with Epilepsy

By: Aaliyah Ellison-McPeters

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Postpartum Care for the Epileptic Mother

For epileptic women, the postpartum period is a vulnerable time with alterations to AEDs, sleep deprivation, increased stress, and possible challenges with breastfeeding. Postpartum for an epileptic woman can be a high-risk time, which isn’t as addressed. When adjustments in anti-epileptic drugs occur in postpartum mothers, difficulties with seizure control arise. The development of postpartum mood disorders, such as postpartum depression, increases in women with epilepsy. The postpartum period, also known as puerperium, is the first six weeks after delivery. Physiologic changes during the postpartum period include reversing hormonal changes during pregnancy. Moreover, these changes are primarily caused by a rapid drop in estrogen and progesterone.

During the postpartum period, a mother is raw, open, and arguably reborn, no matter the number of children she is on. A mother needs to be nourished and cared for adequately to facilitate a healthy healing period and bonding with her new baby. Often mothers aren’t afforded their right to a blissful fourth trimester. A postpartum care plan should be created and treated with as much respect as a birth plan, if not more. In this plan, support persons and their roles should be named, and rest should be prioritized for the mother. The mother should not be doing strenuous activities before she’s ready. Postpartum care should start immediately after birth and last until the first six weeks but ideally until the mother returns to her pre-pregnancy state, which can take up to 18-24 months, depending on the mother and her circumstances.

Postpartum care can take many forms and looks different for each mother, depending on her needs and comfort. A postpartum care support network can involve your midwife, doula, nurse, obstetric team, or specialists. Support persons typically include partners, spouses, family, friends, and neighbors. The most important thing is that the mother is surrounded by people she trusts.

Support Systems and What That Looks Like

A strong support system looks different for each mother and her family, and the people within take on different roles to fit the mother’s needs. Grandparents can be very helpful in the first few weeks after the baby arrives by taking the baby so the parents can rest and catch up on sleep helps minimize sleep deprivation. Adequate sleep also improves a new mother’s confidence and mood. Grandparents can also aid in meal preparation, cleaning, and similar chores. No deed goes unnoticed, and even the most minor tasks can make all the difference for new mothers and their families.

Postpartum doulas are a great option for a freshly postpartum mother. Unlike birth doulas that support a mother through pregnancy and labor, a postpartum doula provides physical and emotional support once the baby is brought home. Some of the services a postpartum doula may offer are breastfeeding support and assistance, newborn care, resources to seek referrals for lactation consultants, physical support post-cesarean birth, emotional support, and more. According to research, families that receive postpartum support from doulas feel more secure in their roles as parents, increase their confidence, and reduce the risk of postpartum depression and other mood disorders decreases. Another option for postpartum support parents can consider are night nannies. Night nannies are trained in newborn care and typically focus on the care of the baby, unlike postpartum doulas, who usually support the whole family through the early stages of parenthood.

It takes a village to raise a child, and mothers should not have to parent in insolation; creating a support network for the postpartum period will give families the best start to parenthood and raising their new child.

When It’s Time to Seek Help

Our emotional and mental health affects our outlook on life, environment, thoughts, behaviors, and emotions.  It is vital to maintain a standard of care for our mental health to enjoy life to the fullest, and the same is especially true for the postpartum mother.  Many mothers can attest that it can be hard to adjust to new motherhood and a new baby, no matter what number child she is on; this can be especially true when a new mother must navigate parenthood and epilepsy. Sometimes even when mothers are surrounded by friends and family who emotionally support them, it’s not enough to prevent the onset of postpartum depression or other perinatal mood disorders. Postpartum depression and anxiety are more likely to show up in women with epilepsy, especially women using AEDs, and it’s essential to watch out for any signs of a mood disorder developing and report them to your neurologist, obstetrician or midwife as soon as possible. Some symptoms of postpartum depression include extreme fatigue, anxiety about your ability to care for your child, inability to connect with the baby, intrusive thoughts and feelings of guilt, worthless, and shame.

Postpartum depression (PPD) should not be confused with baby blues, which are mood adjustments that occur during the first couple of weeks after the baby’s birth. Baby blues are common and typical symptoms of the hormonal disruptions mothers experience after childbirth and typically resolve on their own. If signs of baby blues last longer than two weeks, it’s time to seek help to ensure the well-being of the mother and baby. Most mothers find it hard to report their feelings of depression, but PPD can happen to any new mother, and it doesn’t determine her ability to care for or love the infant. It’s okay not to be okay and seeking help when needed is the best option for families.


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