May 2014

A mixed-methods exploration of the contraceptive experiences of female teens with epilepsy

Manski R, Dennis A.  A mixed-methods exploration of the contraceptive experiences of female teens with epilepsy. Seizure: European Journal of Epilepsy. May 2014; 23(8)629-35

PURPOSE: We explored the contraceptive experiences of female teens with epilepsy, including their knowledge and perceptions of interactions between antiepileptic drugs and hormonal contraception and contraceptive decision-making processes.

METHOD: From November 2012 to May 2013, we conducted one online survey (n = 114) and 12 online focus group discussions (n = 26) with female teens with epilepsy about their contraceptive experiences and unmet needs. Survey data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and focus group transcripts were analyzed thematically using modified grounded theory methods.

RESULTS: Both survey and focus group participants reported believing that interactions between epilepsy medications and hormonal contraceptives could lead to reductions in contraceptive efficacy and seizure control. However, their knowledge about these types of medication interactions was often incomplete. Many study participants viewed contraceptive decision making as a difficult process, and some participants reported avoiding hormonal contraceptives because of potential interactions with antiepileptic drugs. Study participants reported relying on health care providers and parents for contraceptive decision-making support. Focus group participants also reported they wanted health care providers to provide more in-depth and comprehensive counseling about contraception, and that they desired peer support with contraceptive decisions.

CONCLUSION: The ability to make informed contraceptive decisions is important for teens with epilepsy as interactions between anti-epileptic drugs and hormonal contraceptives can impact seizure occurrence and lead to an increased risk of unplanned pregnancy. Guidance for providers offering contraceptive care to this population is needed, as well as a contraceptive support tool that empowers teens with epilepsy to advocate for desired health care.