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.