Emergency department approach to managing seizures in pregnancy

Andy Jagoda, Silvana Riggio

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Seizures in pregnancy pose risks for both the mother and the fetus and must be managed aggressively. Anti-epileptic drugs have some teratogenic potential, but the risks are not as profound as reported in earlier literature. There is definitely less risk to the fetus from anticonvulsant exposure than from uncontrolled seizures. The evaluation of a pregnant woman with new-onset seizures is the same as for the nonpregnant patient, including head computed tomography with appropriate abdominal shielding. Status epilepticus management is based on IV benzodiazepines, phenytoin, or phenobarbital. Good fetal outcome is dependent on rapid seizure control. Management of eclampsia is controversial. There is little evidence that magnesium sulfate has anticonvulsant properties, and its use as such will probably decline steadily in the future. At present, it is reasonable to manage eclamptic seizures in the same way that status epilepticus is managed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-85
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Emergency Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • pregnancy, seizures
  • seizure, pregnancy


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