For some women suffering from epilepsy, the use of birth control pills was linked to increased risk of seizure, a new study has found.

Researchers from Texas A&M Health Science Center found that ethinyl estradiol (EE), the main ingredient of oral contraceptive pills, could increase the risk of seizures.

The findings of the study, published in the journal Epilepsy Research, show that when animal models with epilepsy received the compound, they did not only suffered from more frequent seizures, but also had seizures which are more likely to be uncontrolled.

"We were inspired by an earlier study which surveyed women with epilepsy and found that those using hormonal contraceptives self-reported 4.5 times more seizures than those that did not use oral contraceptives," said lead researcher, D. Samba Reddy.

The researchers long suspected that birth control pills contain hormones that could increase seizure occurrence in women suffering from epilepsy - a neurological disorder characterized by sudden recurrent episodes of sensory disturbance, convulsions and loss of consciousness linked to the abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Experts were not sure which ingredient is the culprit but thanks to the experiment, they found out what has been causing this increased risk.

When women reach the reproductive age, epilepsy tends to be harder to treat and control. This is because the hormones that control menstruation and even pregnancy are known as triggers for seizure attacks.

Though the condition affects men more than women, the seizures in women are more frequent and they are hard to control. Seizures lasting for more than 30 to 40 seconds could cause permanent and serious damage to the brain.

Because of this, the team recommends women of reproductive age with epilepsy to refrain from using oral contraceptive pills and other hormonal methods. The researchers urge these women to consult with their health care provider about using non-hormonal methods like condom and copper IUD (Intrauterine Device).

Epilepsy is the 4th most common neurological problem following migraine, stroke and Alzheimer's disease.

Each year in the United States, an estimated 150,000 or 48 for every 100,000 people will develop epilepsy and an estimated 2.2 million or 7.1 for every 1,000 people in the country have epilepsy.

Photo: Nate Grigg | Flickr 

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