Depakote® and Spina Bifida

Depakote® (valproic acid) is a medication prescribed to treat certain kinds of seizures. It also is used to treat mania in people with bipolar disorder (manic-depressive disorder) and to prevent migraine headaches. It does not help a migraine once it has begun. It is in a class of medications called anticonvulsants.

Spina Bifida Causes: Depakote® and Pregnancy

In December 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a reminder for health care professionals about the increased risk of neural tube defects in babies exposed to Depakote® during their mothers’ pregnancies. Spina bifida is a neural tube defect.

Neural tube defects are birth defects that occur when the baby is developing as a fetus. In these fetuses, the neural tube, which eventually becomes the spinal column, does not completely close. This allows the protective lining around the cord and sometimes the cord itself to protrude through the vertebrae, or the bones that surround and protect the cord.

As a result of the most severe spina bifida defect, called myelomeningocele, the protective membranes around the spinal cord as well as the cord itself protrude through the vertebrae. This exposure of the spinal cord makes it vulnerable to infections, some of them life-threatening.

Because the spinal cord is compromised, many of these children suffer problems of their nervous systems. These may include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Paralysis
  • Bowel and bladder problems
  • Seizures
  • Problems with the bones, such as deformed fee, hips that are not level and scoliosis (curvature of the spine)

In the normal fetus, the neural tube closes by the 23rd day of fetal development.

Other Birth Defects Linked to Depakote®

In addition to neural tube defects, other birth defects connected to this drug are:

  • Craniofacial defects (defects of the face and skull, such as cleft lips and cleft palates)
  • And cardiovascular malformations (problems with the heart and circulatory system)

Besides Depakote®, other causes of spina bifida have been linked either to the environment or genetic factors. The defect tends to run in families. It occurs more often in whites and Hispanics. It also is known to occur in babies of mothers deficient in folic acid (vitamin B).

Other maternal conditions linked to spina bifida are obesity, diabetes, and increased temperature early in the pregnancy, such as the use of a hot tub or sauna.

Contact a Spina Bifida Attorney

If you took Depakote® while you were pregnant and your baby was born with spina bifida, you should contact a spina bifida attorney. An attorney will evaluate the details of your case and will determine if you are a good candidate to bring a claim. You and your child may be eligible for monetary compensation that can pay for medical bills and other financial and emotional losses.

To learn more, schedule a free review of your case by contacting our spina bifida attorneys today.

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