Recently, there has been considerable attention in the press to the potential effect on an unborn child where its mother has been prescribed Sodium Valproate (or Epilim) for epilepsy. However, epilepsy is not the only condition for which Sodium Valproate is prescribed.
Not uncommonly, it is prescribed as a stabilising medication for people suffering bipolar disorder, particularly in those who either do not tolerate Lithium well or, as it takes a shorter time to work than Lithium, where swift mood stabilisation is required.
In the UK there are over 250,000 people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. However, the total number with the condition is thought to be considerably higher. Of course, a significant proportion of those people are women of childbearing age.
Studies have shown that exposing an unborn child to Sodium Valproate whilst pregnant leads to a 40% risk of developing autism, a low IQ and learning disabilities. In addition, there is a 10% chance of developing physical abnormalities.
David Gazzard is a leading solicitor advising families with a child or children affected by exposure to Sodium Valproate. David says:
“These stories are always truly heartbreaking and what particularly strikes me is the number of families where more than one child has been affected. Thanks to the recent publicity more families are now coming forward, including those where mum was prescribed Sodium Valproate for bipolar disorder.
“My fear, however, is that the problem is yet wider as in addition to epilepsy and bipolar disorder, the drug is prescribed as a preventative medication for migraine which affects around six million people in the UK.”