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Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine

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Michelle Pipia-Stiles
Northwell Health
Phone: 631-708-9255
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Date: May 24, 2016

Managing Epilepsy and Pregnancy

New Mom Credits Enrollment in Research Study for Learning How to Control Her Seizures

twinsApril Gentile (center) with her newborn twins (Samara, on the left and Carter, on the right).

Manhasset, NY – April Gentile, 27, from Long Beach is the proud mother of healthy twins and credits her enrollment in a research study at Northwell Health’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, for helping to gain greater understanding about her epilepsy during her recent pregnancy.

Diagnosed at 16 years old, Ms. Gentile used to have up to 40 epileptic seizures a day.  While the epilepsy medication helped control her seizures, she had smaller episodes when stressed and during hormonal changes. 

“When I decided to get pregnant, there were not many answers to my questions regarding my epilepsy,” said Ms. Gentile. “I wanted to know statistics, what were the best medications for me to take and what could I do to ensure a safe pregnancy?”

When Ms. Gentile learned she was pregnant last July, she noticed that she was having an increased amount of episodes due to drastic hormonal changes.  Her neurologist, OB-GYN and high-risk physician decided that she should stay on her epilepsy medication, oxcarbazepine, throughout her entire pregnancy.  The doctors at Northwell helped guide her through difficult treatment decisions, and offered advice regarding the latest information about pregnancy in patients with seizures.

During her pregnancy, Ms. Gentile learned of a research study at Northwell Health’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Care Center in Great Neck, NY.  The study, which has since stopped enrollment, is entitled, Maternal Outcomes and Neurodevelopmental Effects of Antiepileptic Drugs (MONEAD).

“Most women with epilepsy have normal pregnancies, but some appear to be at risk for problems during pregnancy and poor outcomes can occur in their children such as thinking or behavioral problems,” said Sean T. Hwang, MD, assistant professor of neurology at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine and lead investigator of the MONEAD study at Northwell Health. “The purpose of this study is to quantify the risks involved and to find out the contributing factors.”

By participating in Northwell Health’s research study, Ms. Gentile hopes that she has helped other women with epilepsy who are trying to become pregnant or are already pregnant. “I hope I am helping the next generation of pregnant women with epilepsy make the right decisions for their bodies and pregnancies,” said Ms. Gentile. “Enrolling in the study helped me through my pregnancy in many ways including making additional doctor visits, as well as forcing me to keep track of my seizures and medication/vitamin intake.”

Ms. Gentile’s twins (a boy and a girl) were born on March 17, 2016 and continue to do well.  She is adjusting to her new life as a mother and continues to control her epilepsy post-pregnancy.

In an effort to further enhance research efforts about whether or not children of a mother with epilepsy will experience behavioral issues as they grow up, Ms. Gentile continues to be enrolled in the MONEAD study.  This part of the study requires that Ms. Gentile and her twins take part in scheduled office visits every three months. 

Ms. Gentile has this advice, “For any woman who has epilepsy and is trying to conceive, surround yourself with those who will support you.  I recommend that any woman trying to get pregnant should discuss all options with not only their OB-GYN, but also their neurologist and a high-risk doctor.  I believe in not letting my epilepsy hold me back in any way, so not getting pregnant was not an option for me.  Having my family and friends and a team of doctors who made sure I had a healthy pregnancy, made me feel comfortable, confident and happy!”

For more information about Northwell Health’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, call 516-325-7060.