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Many women unaware of serious risks to children exposed to anti-epileptic drug during pregnancy – Carroll MacNeill

8th July 2020 - Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, TD

A survey conducted by Epilepsy Ireland shows there are women taking the anti-epileptic drug valproate, who are still not aware of the significant physical and neurological risks to children exposed to the medicine in-utero, Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill has said.

The Dún Laoghaire representative pointed out that while significant efforts have been made by the State in recent years to alert women to the possible birth defects caused by the drug, only two-thirds of women who take the drug are aware of the risk of developmental disabilities in children exposed in the womb.

Deputy Carroll MacNeill said, “Evidence shows that up to 30-40% of children exposed to the drug valproate during pregnancy will experience serious developmental disorders. Approximately 10% will face congenital malformations.

“The results of Epilepsy Ireland’s survey show that the percentage of women who were aware of the risks increased from 33% in 2016 to 79% in 2020. I welcome this increased awareness, alongside the fact that women are having more conversations about the issue with their healthcare providers.

“However, it remains the case that 3 in 10 women have never discussed the risks of valproate with their healthcare team. Compounding this is the lack of awareness of the Pregnancy Prevention Programme (PPP) which ensures that women understand the risks of the drug if they become pregnant. Almost 75% of women surveyed have never heard of the PPP.

“Additionally, only 30% of respondents said that they had received a letter from the HSE informing them of the risks associated with valproate.

“More needs to be done to ensure women are fully aware of all risks associated with the drug and we also need to ensure increased awareness of the PPP. I plan to raise these issues with the new Minister for Health at the earliest opportunity.”

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