Protect Your Unborn Baby
The use of Depakote during pregnancy has been linked to birth defects. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned pregnant women to avoid using this medication. Depakote is a brand name for valporic acid and is prescribed to people who suffer from bipolar disorder, epilepsy, and migraines.
The medication is only recommended for women of childbearing age if it is necessary to manage their condition. This is because about 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned. Women who are trying to conceive are advised to use effective birth control while they are under this medication to reduce Depakote birth defects risks. The birth defects are particularly commune during the first three month when most women do not even know they are pregnant.
For women who are already on this medication and are planning to get pregnant, it is important to consult healthcare professionals as soon as possible. This will allow the healthcare professional to identify an appropriate alternative that they can use before and during pregnancy.
If you are already taking Depakote during pregnancy and you are concerned about the risk of Depakote birth defects, you should not stop using the prescription before consulting your doctor. This applies even if you discover you are pregnant while on the medication. Stopping this prescription suddenly can lead to various problems. For epilepsy patients, stopping the medication can lead to non stop seizures. It is also important to note that bipolar disorder and epilepsy pose a significant threat to both you and your developing baby if you stop treatment.
It is often difficult to switch medication just before or during pregnancy and for this reason, epilepsy and bipolar disorder patients have to work closely with their healthcare providers to ensure they get a therapy that will not compromise their health and the baby’s development.
Potential Birth Defects
Researchers have identified 6 birth defects that may be associated with the use of Depakote including:
- Cleft palate
- Atrial septal defect
- Spina bifida
These defects can lead to permanent paralysis, hearing and vision difficulties, decreased cognitive development, difficulty eating, and bowel and bladder problems. Some of the defects can also be fatal. Some infants do not survive after birth while others only live up to their first birthday.
Scientific studies have revealed that these defects can occur even if a pregnant woman does not take this medication but Depakote has been shown to increase the risks. Most of the defects associated with this medication affect the spinal cord and brain. The Depakote birth defects are reported in between 1 and 2 out of 100 infants whose are born to mothers under this medication. Defects may begin in the initial months before a pregnancy is confirmed. In addition, if you use depakote during pregnancy to treat any condition, your baby is more likely to have a lower IQ.
Anticonvulsant Drugs and Folic Acid
Anticonvulsant drugs such as depakote are believed to cause birth defects because they reduce the amount of folic acid in a pregnant woman’s body. Folic acid has been identified as one of the most important nutrient for pregnant women because of its critical role during fetal development. The presence of valproic acid in anticonvulsant drugs is blamed for the folic acid reduction.
Valproic acid treats conditions like epilepsy by penetrating your brain’s chemical balance and slowing down electrical transmission of signals between your brain cells. When this happens, the medication is able to stop your seizures because your brain can now process messages properly.
Depakote contains valporate sodium, a type of valproic acid. This ingredient is essential in preventing seizures in epilepsy patients, manic episodes in bipolar disorder and migraine headache symptoms.
Depakote definitely works to manage conditions like migraines, bipolar disorder and epilepsy. But for a pregnant woman, the risks associated with the medication may outweigh the benefits. This is why it is necessary to consult your doctor if you are thinking about having a baby and suffer from any of these conditions. Women can also prevent the defects by ensuring they are taking their birth control properly to reduce unplanned pregnancies. Your healthcare provider may conclude that you can continue to take the medication during pregnancy if it proves difficult to switch to another one. But you will need to undergo regular tests to ensure your baby remains healthy.