What is valproate and why is it a risk for pregnant women?
Valproate is an ASM used to treat epilepsy and bipolar disorder. It can be very effective in controlling seizures, but if a woman with epilepsy becomes pregnant while taking it, their baby is at risk of serious birth defects and developmental disorders.
In 30-40% of cases, the child will have serious developmental disorders. And in 10% of cases, the child will have congenital malformations. Not only that, but this damage can happen before you even realise you are pregnant.
While valproate is not suitable for women of childbearing age who could become pregnant, in some instances it may be the only choice where other treatment options have not worked.
How do I manage the risks of valproate?
If you take an ASM that contains valproate, you must use contraception, even if you are not currently sexually active, unless your doctor believes there are compelling reasons for assuming no risk of pregnancy.
If you’re taking valproate and become pregnant, don’t stop taking your medicine without talking to your doctor first. This is so your symptoms don’t get worse.