Should pregnant women stop taking sodium valproate? 

Sodium valproate is a widely used and effective medication for treating epilepsy, as well as other conditions, such as bipolar disorder and migraines. The drug has been used for decades and is generally considered safe for those people taking it. However, there is now growing awareness that sodium valproate can pose very serious risks when used by women during pregnancy. 

 This means that the drug is now usually not recommended for pregnant women, except in exceptional circumstances. The National Institute for Heath and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that sodium valproate should not be used during pregnancy and if it must be used (where there is no effective alternative for a particular patient) then the lowest possible dose should be used. 

 However, if you are currently taking sodium valproate for epilepsy or another condition, you should not stop taking it without speaking to your doctor first. If you have discovered that you are pregnant and are currently taking sodium valproate, you should therefore seek an appointment with your doctor immediately. 

 What risks does sodium valproate pose to unborn children? 

 Where women take sodium valproate during pregnancy, it has been shown that their children are up to 5 times more likely than average to suffer from birth defects. This equates to 1 in 10 children having a physical birth defect and around 4 in 10 experiencing developmental issues. 

 The physical and development issues associated with exposure to sodium valproate in the womb are referred to as Foetal Valproate Syndrome (FVS). 

 Issues associated with FVS can include: 

 Physical defects 

 Spina bifida (where the spinal cord fails to develop properly causing problems such as paralysis, muscle weakness and incontinence) 

  • Heart problems (due to malformation of the heart) 
  • Cleft lip/cleft palate 
  • Facial characteristic (e.g. epicanthic eye folds and a small upturned nose) 
  • Skeletal issues (including deformation of the feet, contraction of small joints and long overlapping fingers) 
  • Genital issues (e.g. the urinary tract terminating on the underside of the penis) 

 Development issues 

  • Delays in walking 
  • Delays in talking 
  • Poor speech & language skills 
  • Memory issues 
  • Below average intelligence 

Claiming compensation for foetal valproate syndrome 

If your child has been affected by foetal valproate syndrome, this is likely to have a profound effect on their life and yours. Children with FVS often require significant help and support throughout their lives, including medical treatments, physical therapy and ongoing care support.  

While much of this support can be accessed through the NHS, many parents must also fund at least some of the treatments and services their child needs themselves. This is why parents of children with foetal valproate syndrome should consider pursuing compensation wherever possible. 

Foetal valproate syndrome compensation may be substantial, allowing you to cover all of the costs associated with helping your child with their condition and allowing them to live a full, happy life. These claims are complicated, however, so it is strongly recommended to consult with a solicitor specialising in FVS claims to give yourself the best chance of a positive outcome for you and your child. 

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