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Sodium Valproate (Epilim) – The Risks to the unborn child

The Risks of Sodium Valproate throughout Pregnancy

Pregnancy should be a happy and exciting time for the expectant parent despite the numerous GP/Midwife/Hospital Appointments that they will have to attend. For some women, pregnancy can also be a frightening time, especially if they have pre-existing medical conditions.

One pre-existing condition that can cause worry and sleepless nights is epilepsy. The prospect of suffering an epileptic seizure during pregnancy is extremely frightening, which is why medical professionals often prescribe medication called Sodium Valproate (also known as Epilim) to control the risk.

Over the past couple of years, it has become apparent that taking this medication, taken when pregnant, can cause a number of possible complications to the unborn baby.

Only 20% of women who are taking this drug actually know the risks at hand…!

Over 35,000 women take Sodium Valproate to control their epileptic seizures. Considering at least 375 of these women become pregnant, it is essential that they know the possibilities of harm that could come to their baby if they continue to take this medication. 

It is hard to believe that some women do not know what alternative treatment is available when they are in this position.

Research in the UK has found that children born to mothers who took Sodium Valproate during pregnancy, were six to ten times more likely to suffer from a Neurodevelopmental disorder.

Disorders caused by Sodium Valproate

These disorders can take the form of Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD).  

Sodium Valproate is also more likely to cause minor and major malfunctions than any other anti-epileptic drugs; minor malfunctions include small fingers and toes, whereas, major malfunctions could be Spina Bifida or a Cleft Palate.

From 2015 the Medicines and Health Care Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has called upon medical professionals to discuss these potential risks to the unborn child in detail with epileptic woman, before they prescribe any form of Sodium Valproate.

The difficulty is that it is clearly stated that unless there are no other forms of treatment available, a pregnant mother must continue to take the prescribed anti epileptic medication and therefore must potentially run the risk of their unborn baby suffering a complication associated with the same.

The main consideration is that the pregnant mother must be given all of the information available, including the risks of and alternatives to treatment, to allow them to make an informed decision as to their pregnancy.

If you feel like you have been wrongfully advised on your epileptic treatment or have concerns relating to the prescription of Sodium Valproate, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our Clinical Negligence Department on 0151 933 3333 or via email to