Pregnant women with epilepsy are supported by new Westmead Hospital saliva test – thepulse.org.au

Mom-to-be, Jessica Alvia, knows a lot about epilepsy and has been living with it since she was 14 years old.

During her first pregnancy, Jessica suffered a Grand Mal seizure, resulting in loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions.

Jessica experiences no warning signs before a seizure occurs and has suffered serious physical injuries from her sudden breakdowns in the past.

“I don’t know when an attack is coming, which is hard because I can’t get myself somewhere safe,” Jessica explained.

In addition to the serious physical injuries, Jessica said the most terrifying thing about the attacks is that “afterwards I am really confused, and I have to be told repeatedly that it happened”.

Now, Jessica and her husband David are expecting their second child and are aware that preventing seizures is more important than ever – and luckily for them, help is on the way!

Westmead Hospital’s Clinical Pharmacy, with support from Westmead Hospital Foundation, is conducting the world’s first research to create a simple and rapid saliva test for pregnant women with epilepsy to ensure their anti-epileptic medication is at the right dose to prevent life-threatening prevent attacks.

Until now, frequent blood tests have been the only effective way to monitor the level of antiepileptic medication in pregnant women, and according to Professor Johannes Alffenaar, chair of clinical pharmacy at Westmead Hospital, “these blood tests are very expensive and require batch testing. , meaning it will take two to three weeks for the results to be available.”

It is hoped that this new testing system will help people with epilepsy find a perfectly tailored dose.

Being pregnant as an epileptic person can pose potentially serious risks for both mother and child. A very rare but serious complication of poorly controlled epilepsy during pregnancy is Sudden Unexplained Death with Epilepsy (SUDEP), which can occur with nocturnal seizures.

Pregnant women with epilepsy need to review and often increase their anti-epileptic dosage regularly during pregnancy and “the correct level of medication is critical,” said Westmead Hospital specialist neurologist Andrew Bleasel.

“Too little medication can cause seizures and potentially life-threatening complications for mother and baby; too much medication causes side effects, including excessive weight gain, poor mental clarity and low energy,” explains Professor Bleasal.

It’s not surprising that Jessica gives the idea of ​​​​this simple, safe and fast spit test the thumbs up.

“It would be great to have this done at my local pharmacy and have the results in minutes instead of weeks and to know that my dose is the right one for me to prevent seizures,” she said.

You can help Jessica and other pregnant women like her by making a meaningful donation to Westmead Hospital’s first epilepsy study in the world at the Westmead Hospital Foundation here: https://donate.westmeadhf.org.au/tax-appeal

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