Menstrual cycle and ovary alterations in women with epilepsy on antiepileptic therapy

G. Murialdo, C. A. Galimberti, F. Magri, P. Sampaolo, F. Copello, M. V. Gianelli, E. Gazzerro, A. Rollero, C. Deagatone, R. Manni, E. Ferrari, A. Polleri, A. Tartara

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Impaired reproductive function is thought to frequently affect women with epilepsy, mainly when seizures originate in the temporal lobe. In this study, we evaluated menstrual cycle features and assessed ovulation by determining luteal progesterone (Pg) levels in 101 consecutive women with epilepsy (36 with idiopathic generalized epilepsy -IGE; 65 with partial epilepsy -PE), aged between 16 and 50 years, treated with various antiepileptic drugs (AED). PE originated in the temporal lobe (TLE) in 40 subjects, in the frontal lobe in 13, in the parietal lobe in 2, while the origin of focal seizures remained undetermined in 10 patients. In all patients, menstrual and reproductive history, body mass index, hair distribution and hormonal pattern were assessed. Suprapubic ovary ultrasound (US) examination was carried out in 83 patients (28 with IGE, 55 with PE). Three patients with IGE and one with PE were amenorrheic. Oligomenorrhea occurred in 16 patients, polymenorrhea in 2. Changes in menstrual cyclicity were independent from epilepsy type (19.4% in IGE; 23.1% in PE) and from origin of focal discharges (22.5% of patients with TLE; 20.0% with origin in other brain areas). Luteal Pg levels remained below 2 ng/ml in 30 patients independently of epilepsy type. Corpus luteum dysfunction was combined with hyperandrogenism in 15 of these patients. In the other cases different alterations of hypothalamus-pituitary-ovary axis were observed. Valproic acid blunted luteal Pg surge more frequently than other AED. Polycystic ovaries (PCO) were observed in 14 (16.9%) patients (21.0% with IGE; 14.5% with PE). These prevalences are not higher than those reported in the general population. Among PE patients, PCO was found in 1 case with undertemined focal origin and in 7 TLE cases, who also had ovary volume significantly larger than patients with seizures originating from the frontal or parietal robe. Epileptic women exhibited an increased occurrence of multifollicular ovaries (MFO) found in 12 cases (14.4% vs 5% in the general population). However, no defined hormonal or clinical pictures were associated with this US alteration in most patients. These findings reappraise the impact of ovary alterations in women mainly affected by mild to moderate epilepsy, on differing AED regimens, with the exception of more frequent ovulatory dysfunction and PCO occurrence in patients taking VPA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-526
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Endocrinological Investigation
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1997


  • Antiepileptic drugs
  • Epilepsy
  • Multifollicular ovary
  • Ovary function
  • Polycystic ovary
  • Sex steroids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


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