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What is Catemenial Epilepsy?

Do you notice changes in your seizure frequency or intensity just before your menstrual cycle starts? Well if yes, you could be a victim of catamenial epilepsy. Neurologists suggest that catamenial epilepsy is a result of an imbalance between your two important reproductive hormones: progesterone and estrogen. Studies conducted reveals that during the second half of the menstrual cycle, if your body is not producing enough progesterone, you are more likely to experience worse seizures.

Also Read: How Menopause Affects Seizure Activity


Catamenial seizure may occur during the period itself or during the days just before your periods start. Lower ratio of progesterone to estrogen usually increases seizure frequency. Other common causes that can give rise to catamenia seizures are:

  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Water retention

Types of Seizures

Following seizure types are commonly observed when a women body develops a connection between seizures and menstruation:

  • Generalized tonic-clonic seizures (Formerly known as grand mal seizures)
  • Simple partial seizures (Also known as petit mal seizures)
  • Complex partial seizures

However, the above seizure types do not occur in a sequence, women can experience different types of seizures at different phases of her menstrual cycle.

Brief Look at Women’s Seizure Activity from Puberty to Menopause

Now let’s have a brief look on changes in women seizure’s activity from puberty to menopause.

Puberty – This is the time of intense hormonal changes! From physical appearance to emotions and thinking, everything changes for an adolescent. This also marks the beginning of frequent mood swings. All the hormonal changes at this stage can lead to changes in a girl’s seizure activity. Epilepsy that is commonly associated with seizures during puberty is Juvenile Myoclonic Epilepsy.

Pregnancy – The pregnancy stage in women is marked by drastic changes in hormones. These hormonal changes have significant effects on a women’s body. This topic is very wide to be covered here so please click here to read more on pregnancy in women with epilepsy.

Perimenopause – It is the time when a women’s menstrual cycle takes a major shift from regular cycles to toward perpetual infertility. Perimenopause is the stage where women experiences erratic fluctuation in her hormonal activities. Studies show that women have a higher level of estrogen during perimenopause which results in more recurrent seizure activity at this stage.

Menopause – During menopause, women with epilepsy may have a reduction in their seizure activity as the estrogen level is usually stable or low. Thus, a woman experiences more seizures during perimenopause and less during menopause. According to Harden (1999), this pattern of seizure activity is commonly associated with women who have a history of catamenial epilepsy.

Final Words

Hormones play a critical role in seizure’s activity in epileptic women. Higher ratio of estrogen to progesterone increases the level of seizure activity during perimenopause. Catemenial epilepsy is common condition associated with 1/3 of women with intractable epilepsy. In order to determine if you have catamenial epilepsy, it’s important to keep a record of seizures and periods. Treatments that aids in controlling or lowering hormones that triggers seizure is usually advised and it has appeared to be very effective in controlling seizures associated with women’s menstrual cycle.

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