How risky is sodium valproate for pregnant women?

Sodium valproate is a common and usually highly effective medication used to treat epilepsy. While it is generally considered safe for the person taking the medication, sodium valproate can pose significant risks to unborn children if their mother takes the drug during pregnancy.

It has been found that physical birth defects are up to 5 times more likely for women who take sodium valproate while pregnant, affecting around 1 in 10 babies. Meanwhile, around 4 in 10 children whose mother took the drug during pregnancy experience developmental problems.

The risks are so serious that the National Institute for Heath and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends sodium valproate should not be used in pregnancy unless there is no alternative and that, if it must be used, the lowest possible dose should be prescribed. Even so, there is still a significant risk to the child and mothers will need to sign a Risk Acknowledgement Form.

What are the effects of sodium valproate on foetuses?

The exact effects of sodium valproate on an unborn child can vary considerably from case to case. They are all generally life-long issues that cannot be cured but may be alleviated with the right treatment. Children affected by these issues will therefore usually need specialist care and support, often for their entire lives.

Birth defects associated with use of sodium valproate during pregnancy include:

  • Spina bifida (where the spinal cord fails to develop properly, causing issues such as paralysis, muscle weakness and incontinence)
  • Heart problems (resulting from malformation of the heart)
  • Cleft lip/cleft palate (requiring corrective surgery)
  • Facial characteristic (such as a small upturned nose and epicanthic folds)
  • Skeletal issues (including contraction of small joints, long overlapping fingers and deformed feet)
  • Genital issues (such as the urinary tract terminating on the underside of the penis)

Development issues that can result from use of the drug during pregnancy include:

  • Delays in learning to walk
  • Delays in learning to talk
  • Poor speech and language skills
  • Memory issues
  • Lower than average intelligence

How to claim compensation for birth defects due to sodium valproate

If you or your child suffered birth defects due to use of sodium valproate during pregnancy, you may be able to claim compensation. This can be essential to help deal with the life-long consequences of Foetal Valproate Syndrome (FVS).

In order to claim, you will need to be able to show that you were not appropriately warned of the risks associated with the drug and these types of claims can be complex. It is therefore strongly recommended to seek legal advice from solicitors with specific experience handling sodium valproate claims.

IBB Claims Solicitors have the experience and specialist skills needed to help you secure a fair settlement as quickly and easily as possible. In most cases, compensation for sodium valproate-related birth defects can be secured out of court, making things simpler and less stressful for you. IBB Claims offer free initial consultations and a no win, no fee claims service, so there is usually no upfront cost to starting a claim.

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