A new toolkit has been launched to ensure women and girls are better informed about the risks of valproate during pregnancy.

Valproate is a medication used to treat bipolar as well as other mental health conditions and epilepsy. It is associated with a risk of birth defects and development disorders in children born to women who have taken valproate during pregnancy.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has strengthened warnings about the risks of valproate. The new toolkit will ensure women and girls are better informed by health professionals. Up to 1 in 4 babies are at risk of developmental disorders and around 1 in 10 are at risk of birth defects if valproate is taken during pregnancy.

Developed with healthcare professional and patient groups, the toolkit includes a credit card-sized patient card to be given out by pharmacists, booklets for healthcare professionals and patients, and a checklist of questions that doctors can use to guide discussions with patients about valproate. Warnings on valproate medications will appear in the coming months.

GPs, pharmacists, psychiatrists and other health professionals are encouraged to use the toolkit to ensure that women are fully aware of the risks.

Suzanne Hudson, Chief Executive of Bipolar UK, said:

"Valproate can be used to treat bipolar and other mental health conditions but it's vital that women and girls are aware of the risks surrounding this medication. After working alongside the MHRA and other organisations, we welcome the launch of the new communications toolkit, which will provide women with the knowledge they need to make an informed decision with their doctor or psychiatrist."

Dr Sarah Branch, Deputy Director of MHRA's Vigilance and Risk Management of Medicines Division, said:

"It is important no-one should stop taking valproate without discussing it first with their doctor. If valproate is the only treatment option, women of childbearing age should be given effective contraception. Women taking valproate must have regular reviews of their treatment."

Download the Valproate Patient Guide here

Find full information and links to the whole toolkit on the MHRA website

Find more information about valproate on Mind's website