Explains how lithium and other mood stabilising drugs work, how they might help you, whether to take them if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and what alternative treatments are available.
Valproate is an anticonvulsant drug used as a mood stabiliser. It is also known by the trade names Epilim and Depakote.
You can find detailed information about this drug in the official Patient Information Leaflet (PIL). This includes information on the medication is for, how to take it, possible side effects and safety information.
This leaflet should come with your medication, usually inside the box. Or you can download a PDF version of the PIL for your medication:
Some drugs come in different forms, such as tablets or liquid. There may be a separate PIL for each form of the drug, as well as for different doses. You should look at the PIL for the form and dose you have been prescribed.
You can also search these websites for your specific drug to find further information and PILs:
If you have any questions about your medication you can:
If you experience any side effects from your drug, you can report them to the MHRA via their Yellow Card scheme. This scheme allows the MHRA to collect information about which drugs cause which side effects and how common they are. This lets drug manufacturers give more accurate information about their medication.
A pregnancy prevention programme involves:
You will also be asked to sign an Annual Risk Acknowledgement Form. This is something that your doctor will discuss with you. Signing the form means that you understand the risks with taking valproate during pregnancy. And you understand the need to avoid becoming pregnant while taking the medication.
The packaging for prescriptions of valproate may also include a visual warning showing that the medication can cause risks during pregnancy.
You should only be prescribed valproate if you can make sure that you won’t become pregnant, through a pregnancy prevention programme. But if you're thinking of stopping your medication, it's really important to speak to your doctor about doing this safely. If you stop taking valproate suddenly, it can be very dangerous.
If you are taking valproate and think you could be pregnant, visit your doctor as soon as you can. You can discuss your options with them, including other medications that might be available.
The UK Government’s website has a page of information and updates on taking valproate and pregnancy.
If you think this information affects someone you care about, it might be helpful to show them this page. You could also encourage them to visit their doctor to discuss their options. And if you are just there to listen, this can help them feel supported.
Our pages on lithium and other mood stabilisers have more information about this type of medication. This includes how they work and how they might help you. It also covers how they might affect you if you are pregnant, their withdrawal effects and alternative treatment options.
These pages may also help:
This information was published in June 2020. We will revise it in 2023.
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