Department of Neurology

Seizures and menstruation

Q: H ello, My name is Krista and I am 17 years old and have epilepsy. I got epilepsy when I was 10 and have had ever since. My neurologist can't seem to pin point where it came from, but my family and I are sure it is all hormonal. You see I got it right when I started mentrating and I only have my seizures around the time I menstrate. Thank you very much. Krista


A: The changes in hormone levels that occur during menstrual cycle often trigger seizures in women. This has been termed "catamenial epilepsy." However, the hormonal changels alone do not cause epilepsy, but rather unmask the tendency for seizures that you already have. It is believed that an increase in the ratio of estrogen to progesterone lowers the seizure threshold. These increases occur at the time of ovulation, and just before the mentstruation. If your seizures are very closely related to your menstrual periods and your cycles are very consistent, your doctor might wish to place you on progesterone (hormonal) therapy in addition to your usual seizure medications. However, hormonal therapy alone is not a substitute for seizure medications.

I suggest you keep a close calendar of both your seizures and your menstrual periods. This may help your doctor to determine whether there is a close link.

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