If taken by the mother during pregnancy, valproate causes abnormalities (e.g. spina bifida) in around 10 percent of infants. It also causes developmental problems (lower than average intelligence, autism) in around 30 to 40% of children whose mothers took valproate while pregnant.

The medication containing the active ingredient valproic acid or valproate is available in Switzerland under the trade names Depakine Chrono, Orfiril, Convulex, Valproat Chrono Desitin retard, Valproat Sandoz retard and Valproate Chrono Zentiva.

If someone is already taking valproate and wants to become pregnant or is pregnant already, they must not under any circumstances stop taking their medication without medical advice – a fall during a seizure could be more dangerous to the unborn child and the mother than the side effects of the drug. Patients who fall into the above categories should urgently consult the neurologist who is treating them.

Our advice to doctors and epilepsy patients: We recommend that girls and women of childbearing age do not start or continue treatment with valproate. Only if no other alternative is effective can there be a case for taking valproate.

Informationen der Swissmedic zum Thema (available in German, French, Italian

Author: Stephan Rüegg; last updated: 2021.