The designer shared some of the difficulties of living with epilepsy and discussed her desire to have a baby.

By Lena Hansen
February 10, 2020

Camila Coelho was diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 9. The Brazilian influencer and fashion designer, 31, opened up to PEOPLE about her struggles with the neurological disorder and her wish to become a mom. “I’ve always wanted to be a mom. I come from a huge family, and I dream of the belly, breastfeeding, all of that,” she tells the magazine. Coelho is happily married to Icaro Brenner — her love since she was 17 years old — and as the couple gets ready to celebrate their 10-year anniversary, they want to have a baby.

However, they face challenges because the medication that Coelho has taken for over 20 years to keep her seizures under control can increase the probability of birth defects. She doesn’t have the choice to stop the medication because this could lead to a seizure that would put her health and baby’s life at risk.

“I knew that when it was time, I would need to plan [the pregnancy] because I take medicine,” she says. “My neurologist in Brazil, my neurologist in the U.S., even my gynecologist would tell me, ‘Camila, you really need to be off the medicine, so prepare yourself. Get your body cleaned from the medicine and then start trying.’”

When she moved from Boston to Los Angeles last year, her new neurologist suggested a different approach, advising her to stay on the medication while she tried to conceive. “I was in shock. He told me, ‘If you’re clean from it and have a seizure, you can lose your baby. You can hurt your health.’ But what if my child is born and there’s a problem? I would feel so guilty. It’s the hardest decision of my life and very scary, but I know that I just need to have faith.”

Her husband has been her biggest supporter through her health crisis and encouraged her to share her story to help others. “I was scared for him to say, ‘Oh, I don’t think you should share,’ but he supported me right away,” says Coelho of Icaro’s encouragement. “I know I can trust him. He always wants the best for me.”

She also talked to CBS This Morning about her life with the condition on Monday, which is International Epilepsy Day. “I HAVE EPILEPSY, and I am grateful for my life every single day!” she wrote on Instagram. “In honor of #EpilepsyDay I decided to finally open my heart about living with this condition, after keeping it to myself since I was 9. There are over 50 million people globally living with epilepsy, most of whom live a normal life, so we must break the stigma by talking about it. If you have epilepsy, please know you’re not alone and that YOU CAN BE whoever you want to be in this life! Don’t be ashamed (as I was during my teenage years ) and don’t let it stop you from going after your dreams. I was very emotional as it is still new for me to talk about it, but I’m so happy to open my heart to all of you.”

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