Starting a Family
There is limited information about fertility in men with epilepsy. Some studies have suggested that men with epilepsy may have reduced fertility compared with men in the general population. This may be due to the effect of epileptic activity or anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) on testosterone levels. Some AEDs may reduce the production of sperm or affect the quality of a man’s sperm, in particular carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine and sodium valproate. Nevertheless, the majority of men with epilepsy have no problems with fertility and father healthy children.
If you and your partner do experience any problems with conceiving, you may both wish to seek advice from your GP. They can then investigate the many possible causes for this in both you and your partner. If they suspect that the difficulties could be connected in some way to your epilepsy or AEDs, they may refer you to see an epilepsy specialist.
Risks of AEDs on Children
Some men are concerned that their AEDs may affect the quality of their sperm, and that this may cause birth defects in their offspring. However, there is no evidence at all to suggest that AEDs taken by the father would have any effect on their children.
Epilepsy is not necessarily an inherited condition. Generally speaking, the risk that the children of a father with epilepsy would develop epilepsy is only slightly higher than the risk of anyone in the general population developing it.
If you are concerned that epilepsy, or any other medical condition which can cause epilepsy, might run in your family, you may wish to seek advice from your GP or consultant. They may be able to arrange a referral to a genetic counsellor. The genetic counsellor will collect and consider information such as who in the family has epilepsy or a history of the condition, the seizure type, the age the epilepsy started, EEG results, and any other medical conditions there may be in the family.
Caring For a Baby or Young Child
Many mothers and fathers with active epilepsy successfully care for their babies and young children. There is very good evidence that if you follow sensible safety precautions, the risk of having a seizure that could harm your child is actually very small. If you have epilepsy, other people may be worried about the effect your seizures could have on your baby or young child. It is important that you are not prevented from looking after them, just because you have epilepsy.
Any parent with concerns about coping with any aspect of the care of their young child should discuss these with their Epilepsy New Zealand Information and Support Specialist or GP, who can offer support and advice.