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Pregnant women and those who are planning pregnancy should not discontinue their medication without consulting a specialist, says a major new report from researchers at the University of Oxford.

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The latest Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths and Morbidity from the national collaborative programme studying maternal and infant deaths, MBRRACE-UK, reviewed the care of 124 women who died and 46 women who had severe illness during or after pregnancy in the UK and Ireland between 2013 and 2015. The report, ‘Saving Lives, Improving Mothers’ Care’, examined the care of women with severe epilepsy and women who had severe mental illness, as well as the care of women who died. The authors identified that forward planning of care and optimising medication doses could make a major difference to women’s risk of complications.

The researchers noted that a number of women who died from epilepsy had stopped their medication early in pregnancy. In some instances this was because either they or their treating doctors were not aware that this could leave them and their unborn babies at increased risk from the effects of seizures. Women who consulted for specialist advice either before pregnancy or early in pregnancy and changed their medications where needed to those which were best for both them and their baby had the least complications in pregnancy. There is an urgent need to ensure women can access this specialist care.

Read more (University of Oxford website)