Epilepsy , a brain disorder that causes people to have recurring seizures is influenced by female hormones estrogen and progesterone . Both of these hormones interact with brain cells including those in the temporal lobe , a part of the brain where partial seizures often begin . Estrogen is an excitatory hormone , which makes brain cells give off more of electrical discharge . Progesterone , on the other hand , is an inhibitory hormone , which calms those cells down .
Although epilepsy similarly affects men and women , health issues and concerns faced by women living with epilepsy is different from men . Women face many unique challenges from changes during the monthly cycle which may trigger seizures to concerns regarding pregnancy . Menopause , anticonvulsants , hormones , stress and mood disorders also affect in a different way in females .
When the body is making more estrogen than progesterone , it can make the nervous system excitable . In other words , a women could be at greater risk for seizures .
Many women develop their first seizures when they enter puberty . This is because before puberty , not many sex hormones circulate in body .
Seizures that are affected by a women’s menstrual cycle are called catamenial epilepsy . Some women have most of their seizures when there is a lot of estrogen in their body , such as during ovulation . Other women have seizures when progesterone levels tend to drop , such as right before or during their period .
Seizures may start around the last half of menstrual cycles and continue through the whole second half of the cycles . Women with epilepsy have more an ovulatory cycles (cycles that do not release an egg ) than women without epilepsy . Data suggest that as many as 40 per cent of menstrual cycles in women with epilepsy do not release an egg .
A women’s seizures might go away when she reaches menopause ; this usually happens in women who have catamenial epilepsy .
If a woman can identify the role of hormones playing in her seizure patterns , it can help her treatment . Keeping a calendar of menstrual cycle and the days of having seizures helps ; including notes about other factors that might be important , such as missed medication , sleep loss , stress or other illness . By sharing these records with the doctor , a woman can work together to manage her epilepsy more effectively .