I calculated ovulation using the rhythm method. First, I would mark the calendar on the day I menstruated; then I counted 14 days ahead and marked that day on the calendar with a circle. Next, I marked an
X 4 days before the circle and another X 4 days after the circle. In this way, I determined that I was fertile during the week between the two Xs. I would watch carefully for a stringy discharge when I urinated during this period of time, which I knew meant I was ovulating. I used this method each time I tried to conceive, and I got pregnant each time on the first try. I also used this method when I did not want to conceive, by avoiding intercourse during the time I was fertile. I never had an unplanned pregnancy.
Many women with epilepsy have polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition characterized by irregular ovulation and menses. The ovaries of women with this condition fail to release an egg at a regular time each month, making conception difficult. The infertility caused by this syndrome is treatable. Polycystic ovary syndrome may be more common in women with epilepsy, and there is some evidence that one particular medication that is used to control seizures (sodium valproate) may also bring on this syndrome. If this is true—and not all experts agree—this effect may be reversible. It is worth noting that many doctors warn women who stop taking sodium valproate that they may get pregnant easily, and that they should use contraception if they do not wish to become immediately pregnant. The policy of some doctors is to screen all adolescent girls with epilepsy—as well as women seeking preconception counseling—for the presence of polycystic ovaries and the associated hormonal changes, and advise them accordingly.
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