29 May 2014, by Tan Yi Lin


A few weeks ago, soon after my third seizure occurred, I texted my IVF girlfriends on Whatsapp with a multiple choice question:


Imagine that you have been diagnosed with a medical condition that requires you to consume daily medication to keep the symptoms in check. The medication, when taken by pregnant women, is known to have a 6% chance of causing physical abnormalities and a 0.5% chance of causing nervous disorders in the foetus.

Would you:

(a)    Start on daily medication and try to get pregnant anyway;

(b)   Reject the medication and try to get pregnant, knowing that there is a risk that your medical condition, if uncontrolled, may affect the foetus;

(c)    Shelve all plans to conceive, regardless of whether you take the meds or not.

My friends replied: “This isn’t hypothetical, is it?”

To which I typed: “No. It isn’t. What should I do?”


As you all know, we had originally planned to try for a third child, through the frozen cycle, back in February this year. Then, a series of seizures suddenly came along and screwed up our plans to conceive.

To date, I’ve consulted two epilepsy specialists and two Chinese physicians.

The former have recommended that I start on regular medication that will inhibit the overactive electrical charges and prevent the occurrence of further attacks. There is a possibility that I may experience absent-mindedness, lethargy (as if I’m not tired enough!) and giddiness – side-effects that I’m not willing to put up with given that I need to be alert and steady to care for my young children and to function at work. That said, there are patients who are lucky enough not to experience any side-effects once their bodies adapt to the medication.

But that still leaves the dilemma of whether to try to conceive while on anti-epilepsy drugs (AEDs), given the risk that the medication poses to the unborn child. Both specialists quoted cases of female patients conceiving healthy babies while on AEDs and recommended that I take daily 5mg doses of folic acid should I plan to conceive, to lessen the chance of neurological defects in the foetus.

The other option is to try to reduce the chance of further seizures through better sleep habits and nutrition without resorting to AEDs, so as not to subject the foetus to the drugs. However, the doctors highlighted that a seizure during pregnancy could also cause irreparable damage if oxygen supply to the foetus is truncated during an attack.

I was torn.

I thought long and hard. As much as I would love to have another baby, I just can’t bring myself to create another life under such circumstances. It isn’t fair to the child.


I’ve just had another (annoying) seizure on Tuesday – my fourth in four months. Our plans for baby no.3 are on hold indefinitely until we are confident that I am seizure-free. Even the choice of treatment has a bearing on our family plans. Being “seizure-free” is defined as not having an attack within two years. With each episode, the counter reverts to ‘0’. It is frustrating. Even if being on daily medication can prevent the onset of further seizures for two years, I would have to be gradually weaned off the drugs over a long period of seven months – with no guarantee that the reduced dosage will hold up against any new attacks.

With me breaching the 35-year mark this year, I am reluctant to postpone plans to conceive for another three years or so. My mum consoles me by reminding me that she had my younger brother when she was 38 years-old – but that was not without its complications.

I have chosen to go down the drug-free route for now. ‘Hope’ presents itself in the form of my Chinese physician, who is confident that he can heal me through natural means and that I will be able to try to conceive again six months from my last seizure. But alternative treatment will take time – I’m not sure how patient I can be.


This (annoying!) episode with epilepsy has made me even more aware, appreciative and grateful for our two tiny daughters. Not only are we lucky to have conceived through the gruelling IVF process, we are very blessed that they came along before the seizures did.

So, the message to all couples planning for kids – is not to wait too long before trying. You never know what Life will toss at you and throw your plans into a kerfuffle.

Posted on : May 29, 2014

Filed under : Planning For Baby


Tan Yi Lin

Yi Lin

July 29th, 2014 at 11:25 am    

Thanks, babe. It’s been 5 by now. The good news is – it didn’t happen this month! Hopefully I’ll be able to stop having to track these occurances from now on.

Mandy Loh


June 9th, 2014 at 3:40 pm    

Hi babe, oh no 4th seizure? 🙁 Praying for you!

Tan Yi Lin

Yi Lin

June 8th, 2014 at 12:48 am    

Hi Eliss,

Thanks for leaving a note. So honoured to learn that you’ve been reading our entries since we started with our travel blog… a little more than 5 years ago!

Thanks for the thoughtful suggestion. You must have read my mind…or I read yours, somehow. I used to do yoga weekly but stopped when I started IVF in 2010. But I was just enquiring with my colleagues 2 days back about the lunch time yoga classes at our office. I’ll be joining them during the next round of enrolment. While it means having to rush through lunch every Thu, I hope that the yoga will bring some calm and focus, and help improve circulation through proper breathing techniques.

Hoping to share good news soon on this blog (instead of dreary blah updates, haha.)


June 4th, 2014 at 11:33 pm    

Have been reading your posts past few yrs. Have had hard time conceiving several yrs before I have my girl. We need to be around for our kids so I think most impt is to stay healthy for them dun stress up over trying another one..the risk may not be wotth it.
my 2 cents worth


June 4th, 2014 at 4:12 pm    

Hi Yi Lin, been a reader of your blog since your travelling days with Dannie. I shared your frustration and the current feeling of hopelessness on meeting plans on hold…

Since you have decided to go drug-free to tackle the “seizures”, what about going for some meditation or even regular yoga sessions that might calm your nerves even further?

I know being a mother of two young kids, it is almost difficult to get your regular “me” time… but light exercises may just be what you needed now… imho


May 29th, 2014 at 11:00 pm    

Truly admire you for your tenacity. I’m no medical doctor but do hope that you will remain seizure-free and the Chinese physician can help you along. Please take care of yourself during this period.

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