Each September, the last Wednesday of the month is recognized as National Women’s Health and Fitness Day. Maintaining realistic goals for your health and wellness can help many women better manage their epilepsy. Take this time to prioritize yourself and read more about how wellness and exercise can be worked into your regular routine. Please remember that every woman’s body is different, and what works for some may not work for everyone. Consult your healthcare provider before making any significant changes to your health and fitness goals.
Health and Wellness
Women and girls with epilepsy have unique health issues that may be affected by their epilepsy or by treatments used to control seizures. Below are a few important health-related topics that women should consider when discussing health with their physician.
Hormonal changes can impact epilepsy from puberty through menopause. The hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle are the most likely cause of changes in seizure frequency. The brain contains many nerve cells that are directly affected by estrogen and progesterone, the main sex hormones in women. While physicians continue to study the link between hormones and seizure frequency, it’s important to talk to your doctor about the best way to minimize seizure frequency during certain stages of your menstrual cycle.
Birth Control and Anti-Seizure Medications
When discussing contraception with your healthcare team, it’s important to note that certain anti-seizure medications can interfere with the effectiveness of hormonal birth control. When talking to your doctor, make sure to discuss all possible contraception options that best fit your needs based on your anti-seizure medication.
Other Health Considerations
For some women, epilepsy can be disabling and can cause many different health problems. Some may have epilepsy along with other disabilities. Women with multiple disabilities may also experience issues with mobility, sensation, pain, thinking or memory, sleep, fatigue, sexuality, and other hormonal problems. Unfortunately, these issues may not be discussed openly. Never be afraid to bring up a health topic that is important to you when speaking with your healthcare team.
When monitoring your health along with your doctor, consider working on a fitness routine. Studies have shown that regular exercise provides physical and emotional benefits for people living with epilepsy. For some women with epilepsy, it can be difficult to find an exercise routine that works for them and feels safe. Below are some suggestions to help you feel comfortable when starting your fitness journey.
Exercising with epilepsy can pose safety risks for some women depending on their seizure frequency. Never begin a new exercise routine without first consulting your doctor. Once it’s safe to begin exercising, there are additional steps you can take to help avoid injury. Using the buddy system while exercising is a great way to socialize and get moving. Invite your friends or family to go for a light walk, or to try an online yoga tutorial. If you are doing an in-person group activity, make sure to let your instructor know ahead of time that you have epilepsy in case of an emergency. Also consider wearing a medical identification bracelet or necklace with your name, emergency contact information, medication, allergies, and more in case you do have a seizure.
Start At Your Own Pace
It may be tempting to start a new exercise routine quickly, especially if you’re excited about the activity you’ve chosen. If you’re new to exercising, start in short intervals one or two times a week. Once you’re more comfortable with your ability, consider increasing the frequency and intensity of your workout. Do not exercise if you have not gotten the appropriate amount of sleep, if you have not eaten well that day, or if you feel that you are too stressed to focus properly on the activity you are doing. Remember, your exercise routine is meant to fit you and your comfort level. If you do not feel that exercise is right for you at any time in your epilepsy journey, talk to your healthcare team and discontinue your activities until you feel well enough to start again.
No matter where you are in life, paying attention to your own health and staying fit is vital to happiness and overall quality of life. We encourage you to connect with other women living with epilepsy to share your own personal wellness goals and make new connections. Together, women in the epilepsy community can improve their wellness one step at a time.