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Reproduction & Hormones

While many anti-seizure medications are teratogenic – they cause malformations in babies when they are exposed in utero – we do not understand the mechanisms by which malformations occur.

Nor do we understand the risk posed to children fathered by men taking anti-seizure medications, or if there are transgenerational effects.

For both men and women living with epilepsy, deciding to start a family can still cause great anxiety and stress. We need to better understand the mechanisms by which antiseizure medicines cause harm to the babies of people with epilepsy. To address this anxiety, and the risk to future generations, we must develop strategies and newer treatments that prevent harm.

Our research priorities

  • Identify the risk of antiseizure medications causing congenital malformations or cognitive delay in babies born to parents taking them. This will require a more comprehensive UK pregnancy register, with collection of biological samples and cognitive assessment of children.
  • Better understand the mechanisms by which antiseizure medications cause harm to the reproductive system to develop strategies and new ways of preventing that harm. Alongside this, we will seek to identify any risk of transgenerational effects.
  • Discover the mechanisms by which antiseizure medications cause harm to the developing child to develop strategies and new ways of preventing that harm.
  • Understand the longer term consequences of epilepsy and its treatment on reproductive health, including menopause and bone health.
  • Enable informed treatment choices to be made by those considering a family and understand how benefits and harms are traded off in order to make treatment decisions.

Reproduction & Hormones theme leads

Clinical Co-Lead: Dr Rebecca Bromley, University of Manchester
Clinical Co-Lead: Dr Janine Winterbottom, The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust
Early Career Lead: Dr Faye McLeod, Newcastle University

The Reproduction & Hormones theme leads will be supported by a task force of preeminent UK scientists and clinicians. The team is driving a research programme to feed into an overall roadmap for research into epilepsy in order to secure large-scale investment.

Reproduction & Hormones on The Hub

Join The Hub – the online discussion portal for researchers working in the field of epilepsy and associated conditions – to find and share networking and collaboration opportunities, as well as workshops and events. If you would like to be involved in the task force group for the programme, you can find more information on The Hub here.