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Sexual and reproductive health concerns of women with epilepsy beginning in adolescence and young adulthood.

Kirkpatrick L, Harrison E, Borrero S, Miller E, Sogawa Y, Stransky OM, Talabi MB, Urban A, Kazmerski TM. Sexual and reproductive health concerns of women with epilepsy beginning in adolescence and young adulthood. Epilepsy & Behavior : E&B. 2021 Dec 1; 125:108439.

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BACKGROUND: Women with epilepsy (WWE) have potentially unique concerns regarding their sexual and reproductive health (SRH). Prior studies of WWE have focused narrowly on pregnancy and preconception experiences, and have not addressed concerns of nulliparous adolescent and young adult women not actively seeking pregnancy. METHODS: We conducted individual semi-structured interviews with WWE 18-45?years of age. We sampled to maximize diversity of age and parity, and intentionally included many adolescent and young adult nulliparous women not actively planning pregnancy. Interviews broadly addressed participants'' SRH concerns and experiences. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. Two coders performed qualitative analysis using thematic analysis with deductive and inductive approaches. RESULTS: Twenty WWE (median age 23?years, range 18-43?years) completed interviews. Twelve were nulliparous, six had children, one had a history of miscarriage only, and two were currently pregnant. WWE''s narratives revealed significant concerns about family planning and reproductive health in the context of epilepsy, including: 1) seizures endangering pregnancies and children 2) teratogenic effects of antiseizure medication, 3) heritability of epilepsy, 4) antiseizure medication and epilepsy impacting fertility, and 5) interactions between antiseizure medication and contraception. CONCLUSION: WWE, including nulliparous adolescent and young adult women who are not actively planning pregnancy, have significant concerns about how their epilepsy interacts with SRH. SRH counseling for WWE should begin during adolescence and be incorporated into the transition process from pediatric to adult healthcare. Insights from WWE may aid in the creation of relevant patient-facing educational resources as well as provider-facing training and tools to meaningfully support the reproductive decision-making of WWE throughout their childbearing years.

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