Understanding your hormones and seizures

  • April 18, 2024
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Group of friends discussing hormones and seizures

Hormones are powerful chemicals our bodies produce which give ‘instructions’ to different parts of our bodies. And for some people, there’s an important link between their hormones and seizures. 

Some women with epilepsy experience hormonal seizures, where their seizures are closely linked to their periods, menopause, puberty and pregnancy. Seizures and anti-seizure medication can also affect men’s hormones. And hormones may also be linked to non-epileptic seizures too. 

Let’s learn more about the ways hormones affect - and are affected by - seizures. 

Quick introduction to hormones

Our bodies produce many different hormones. These are chemical messengers which give instructions to different systems in our bodies. Hormones help with things like growth, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, sleep or reproduction. 

When it comes to hormones and seizures, arguably the most important hormones are those which are related to reproduction (sex). 

For women, the two main reproductive hormones related to hormonal seizures are estrogen and progesterone. For men, it’s testosterone. 

Can hormones cause seizures? 

Yes, there is plenty of evidence that hormones can cause seizures in some people with epilepsy. Hormones may also be linked to certain seizure-like symptoms in some people who don’t have epilepsy. 

Perhaps the best-known link is between the female sex hormone estrogen and seizures. Estrogen is a ‘proconvulsant’ hormone (it stimulates electrical activity in the brain), and so an increase in levels of estrogen in the body may trigger seizures. 

There may also be links between other hormones and seizures too. For example, studies suggest that the stress hormone cortisol is associated with seizures. There may also be a link between the sleep hormone melatonin and seizures too. 

Female hormones and seizures

Many women experience hormonal seizures at different stages of life. Female hormones and seizures affect women’s experience of epilepsy in several ways:

Catamenial epilepsy

It is believed that, among women with epilepsy, about four in 10 have catamenial seizures. This is when seizures are closely linked to the menstrual cycle. 

At different stages in the menstrual cycle, there are different levels of progesterone and estrogen in your body. Progesterone is an ‘anticonvulsant’ which calms electrical activity in the brain, but when levels of progesterone suddenly drop off, this can trigger seizures. At the same time, levels of estrogen (a pro-convulsant) are higher at other times of the month. 

Catamenial epilepsy is particularly common among women with drug resistant epilepsy - which is when medicine doesn’t seem to help prevent seizures. 

Learn more: Read our overview of catamenial epilepsy


Puberty is a time of rapid change in a girl’s body, which most often starts between the ages of eight and 13. Many of these changes are triggered by hormones, and there is some evidence that this may be linked to the start of some girls’ epilepsy experience. 


Menopause is the time when a woman’s periods stop. Hormone levels can fluctuate a lot at this time, and there may be higher levels of estrogen in your body - which can lead to more seizures in women who have catamenial epilepsy. But after menopause, the number of seizures you have may reduce or even stop. 

Pregnancy and hormonal seizures

During pregnancy, there will be many hormonal changes happening in your body. Depending on the person, it may lead to you having more, or fewer seizures.

Related: Read about pregnancy and seizures

There are many ways that hormones can affect women’s epilepsy experience. It’s always valuable to speak with your doctor about any issues you’re experiencing - there are things they can do to help. 

Male hormones and seizures

Some kinds of epilepsy may affect men’s hormones and their experiences. Perhaps the most important effect is to do with testosterone, which is a hormone that affects male growth, sex drive (libido) and sperm production. 

For some men with epilepsy, seizures can reduce the amount of testosterone they produce, which can cause certain problems around sex. It’s also possible that certain anti-seizure medication can affect men’s testosterone levels. 

Read more: Men’s experiences with epilepsy

It can be ‘awkward’ to talk about sexual issues with your doctor. But there are many things they can do to help. If you find you are experiencing sexual challenges, do speak with your doctor about them. Remember that they see these kinds of issues all the time. 

Non-epileptic hormonal imbalance seizures

Many people experience non-epileptic seizures. These are distressing events where the person’s body might twitch or shake, where they may be unresponsive, or behave in an unusual way (among other symptoms). These non-epileptic seizures may have many causes, including psychological issues. 

One 2017 study in Denmark found that some people who have these seizures have a lower level of a hormone called neuropeptide Y in their blood. This is a hormone that helps people deal with stress. So, if they don’t have enough of the hormone in their bodies, stressful events can become overwhelming. 

If you believe you might be experiencing non-epileptic seizures, it’s worth speaking with your doctor. They may recommend you speak to a specialized epileptologist to do more tests. 

Managing hormonal seizures

Hormonal seizures can be distressing and frustrating. It can almost feel like your body is working against you. But it’s important to know that there are ways these issues can be treated and managed. By speaking with your doctor about issues you’re facing, you can work together to develop a treatment plan which meets your needs.

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