Pregnant women who have epilepsy appear to be at greater risk of dying during childbirth than women without the condition, even though the risk is small, according to a Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study.

“Specifically, there were 80 deaths per 100,000 women with epilepsy versus six deaths per 100,000 in women without epilepsy,” lead researcher Sarah MacDonald, doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard Chan School, said in a US News & World Report article on July 6, 2015. She and her colleagues also found that women with epilepsy had an elevated risk of cesarean delivery and complications during delivery.

The paper was published online July 6, 2015 in JAMA Neurology. Sonia Hernández-Díaz, professor of epidemiology, was senior author.

Further research is needed to determine why women with epilepsy seem to be at increased risk and what can be done, MacDonald said. “In the meantime, it may be necessary to consider pregnancies in women with epilepsy as high risk and follow them up accordingly throughout pregnancy,” she said.

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