Valproate: Should you stop taking it?

If you’re one of the thousands of women in the UK currently taking Valproate, new guidance shows that you may need to stop taking the treatment.


Valproate is currently used to treat Epilepsy and Bipolar Disorder. You may also know it as Epilim, Depakote, Convulex, Episenta, Epival, Kentlim, Orlept, Sodium Valproate, Syonell and Valpal. New guidance shows that girls and women of childbearing age must be taking effective contraception if they want to continue using the drug.

Valproate and birth defects

Valproate can cause serious harm to unborn babies. Babies can suffer from birth defects, as well as other issues in later development. The risk to unborn babies is higher with this drug than other Epilepsy treatments. Even small doses can put your baby’s health at risk.

These birth defects include:

Spina bifida
– Face and skull malformations, including ‘cleft lip’ or ‘cleft palate’
– Malformations to internal organs

High risk to learning and development

30-40% of pregnant women who take Valproate will give birth to babies with development problems. This is a pretty blanket-term, but ‘development problems’ includes the following:
– Being late in learning to walk and talk
– Poor speech and language skills
– Memory problems
– Lower intelligence than other children of the same age

There is also an increased risk of children developing Autism, ASD and showing signs of ADHD.

Valproate and pregnancy prevention

If you’re a girl or woman of childbearing age and wish to keep taking the drug, you must ensure that you have a pregnancy prevention programme in place. This means using effective contraception to ensure you don’t become pregnant. Discuss options with your GP or sexual health specialist to work out what’s right for you.

Young girls and Valproate

If you’re old enough to get pregnant, you or your parent or guardian will need to review your treatment with your GP. This should be done as soon as your periods begin, so you can make sure you’re taking any necessary measures. If you haven’t started your periods yet, it’s important that you still understand the risks of using Valproate for the future.

Are you pregnant or trying for a baby?

If you are already pregnant or want to start trying for a baby, speak to your GP immediately. Don’t alter your medication until you have sought medical advice.

Don’t act without advice

If you’re currently taking Valproate and you’re concerned about the associated risks, consult your GP straight away. It’s vital that you speak to your doctor before you stop taking your medication. Your doctor will be able to provide you with advice and an alternative solution.

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