Woman talking to doctor

Women's special concerns

Many common conditions that affect the brain are more complicated to treat in women. As women's health expands, hormones and reproductive concerns men don’t encounter can influence women’s neurological conditions and courses of treatment. This requires more time and expertise for study and treatment of women's specific neurological conditions. More research is needed to effectively treat these patients, but recent research suggests:

  • 20 percent of women suffer from migraines
  • Sleep disorders in women are often overlooked in primary care doctor’s offices
  • Hormones affect seizure frequency in 30 percent of women with epilepsy
  • Women are three times more likely than men to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis
  • Medications used to treat neurological disorders may have significant impact on pregnancy and contraception effectiveness
  • Stroke mortality is higher in women, although 30 percent of women are unaware of their stroke risk factors

The Northwestern Medicine Women’s Neurology Center believes that taking care of your neurological condition requires important attention to how it affects you as a woman. Younger women need to understand how their neurological condition will affect pregnancy and contraceptive choices. Mature women need to understand how their symptoms may change during menopause. Northwestern Memorial Hospital incorporates an integrated medicine approach to patient care versus an approach based solely on pharmacology. Reproductive health and issues related to women’s hormones are also a focus, including how their condition or medication may change due to contraception, pregnancy and menopause.

Some of the special concerns of women with neurological disorders include:

  • Changes in neurological symptoms throughout the menstrual cycle
  • Finding effective birth control methods that do not interact with neurological treatments
  • Planning a healthy pregnancy
  • Effects of fertility treatments on neurological conditions
  • Decision regarding breastfeeding
  • Effects of menopause and hormone replacement on neurological symptoms

The Women's Epilepsy Program

The Women’s Epilepsy Program at the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center within Northwestern Memorial Hospital is designed to care for women with epilepsy and seizure disorders in every stage of their lives. We are proud to be one of the only institutions in the region with a specialized program for women with epilepsy.

The program is designed to address how epilepsy may affect you as a woman throughout your life. Seizures in women can be directly influenced by the menstrual cycle, menopause and other hormonal fluctuations. Seizure medications can interact with hormonal contraception, hormone replacement and fertility treatments. It is also important to understand the effect of seizures and medications on pregnancy and to plan for your pregnancy in advance.

Every woman who has been diagnosed with epilepsy or a seizure disorder will benefit from a comprehensive evaluation with a physician trained in the treatment of women’s epilepsy.

An initial consultation focuses on making sure you have the most appropriate treatment plan and ensuring you understand the importance of advanced family planning. After an initial evaluation, we collaborate closely with your primary care physician, OB/GYN and neurologist to provide comprehensive care.

Counseling topics regularly discussed in our clinic include how epilepsy and seizure medications relate to the following:

  • Pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding
  • Newborn care
  • Menstrual cycle
  • Contraception
  • Fertility treatments
  • Menopause
  • Hormone replacement
  • Bone health

Conditions

The Women's Neurology Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital
At the Women’s Neurology Center, we believe that taking care of your neurological condition requires important attention to how it affects you as a woman. The center will incorporate an integrated medicine approach to patient care versus an approach based solely on pharmacology, Curran said. Reproductive health and issues related to women’s hormones are also a focus, Gerard said.

When a woman is diagnosed with a neurological condition, we need to take her through issues related to contraception, hormones, pregnancy and menopause, said Gerard. This takes extra time and expertise that the center is prepared to handle. Younger women need to be educated about how their neurological condition will affect pregnancy and contraceptive choices. Mature women need to be especially cognizant of how their symptoms may change during menopause.

The Women’s Epilepsy Program at the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at Galter Pavilion
The Northwestern Medicine Comprehensive Epilepsy Center maintains the highest designation by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers. We work together to determine how to best treat your seizures in a way that minimizes significant side effects and maximizes your quality of life.

The Women’s Epilepsy Program at the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center is designed to care for women with epilepsy and seizure disorders in every stage of their lives. We are proud to be one of the only institutions in the region with a specialized program for women with epilepsy.

Our program is designed to address how epilepsy may affect you as a woman throughout your life. Seizures in women can be directly influenced by the menstrual cycle, menopause and other hormonal fluctuations. Seizure medications can interact with hormonal contraception, hormone replacement and fertility treatments. It is also important to understand the effect of seizures and medications on pregnancy and to plan for your pregnancy in advance.


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