Depakote birth defects: epilepsy drug increases risk of mental deficits

Austin Kirk

By Austin Kirk
Posted May 15, 2007


The epilepsy drug Depakote has been linked to an increased risk of mental retardation and birth injuries when taken during pregnancy.  According to recent reports, the risk of Depakote birth defects could be significantly greater when compared to the risks associated with alternative anticonvulsants.

Approximately 24 million American women have taken an anticonvulsant drug for problems such as epilepsy, bipolar disorder and migraine headaches.  The use of Depakote during pregnancy has been compared with other similar drugs, including Tegretol, Lamictal and Dilantin.  Several reports have indicated that the risks of mental retardation, birth defects and fetal deaths are greater when Depakote is used.


According to a report presented earlier this month at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Boston, children who were exposed to Depakote during pregnancy were twice as likely to have I.Q. scores in the range of mental retardation, when compared with children exposed to other epilepsy drugs.

The study has followed 185 children whose mothers took either Depakote, Lamictal, Tegretol or Dilantan.  Researchers reported that I.Q. tests administered at 2 years old indicate that children exposed to Depakote scored 7 to 8 points lower on the I.Q. test than children exposed to one of the other epilepsy drugs during pregnancy.  The children will continue to be followed through age 6.


In October 2006, the warning label for Depakote was changed to indicate that the drug could result in birth defects when taken during pregnancy.  The warning was updated after a study was published in the August 8, 2006 issue of Neurology regarding Depakote side effects.  However, many believe the warning is not strong enough and that the manufacturer, Abbott Laboratories, has not done enough to warn doctors and patients of the risks.

The study found that congenital malformations and fetal deaths were more likely when expectant women who took Depakote, when compared with one of the other epilepsy drugs.  Approximately 20.3% of babies born after the mother took Depakote suffered serious adverse outcomes, compared with the other drugs which had significantly lower rates between 10.7% and 1%.

Given the findings of these recent studies, doctors are strongly considering other drugs before prescribing Depakote for pregnant women.  Had the severe risk of Depakote birth defects been made known earlier, many children born with malformations or mental retardation could have avoided these disabilities if the mother was given a different anticonvulsant during pregnancy.


The product liability lawyers at Saiontz & Kirk, P.A. are reviewing the potential for Depakote lawsuits for children born with birth defects or mental retardation after the mother took the epilepsy drug during pregnancy.  If you, a friend or family member wish to speak with an attorney to discuss the Depakote problems, request a free consultation.

1 Comment • Add Your Comments

  • Jack says:

    I have read articles that state women that have taken Depakote have a higher risk of children having side effects. I am a male that has taken depakote for about a year or so and was wondering if my wife will have children with side effects? or are the side effects just associated on the women side will taking Depakote?

    Posted on December 5, 2009 at 3:21 pm

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