You see for some, valproate is the only drug that allows them to lead a normal life. I have long championed that women should be given all the information and then be allowed to make their own decisions. Women have different paths in life and different needs, a blanket ban for all childbearing women is not always appropriate. Kim Morley, the UK’s only epilepsy midwife specialist, does incredible work around giving women a choice. She is a fountain of knowledge and her clinical experience of the subject is ever-growing. She champions women’s rights and is a shining light on what we should be aiming to achieve. Six babies a month are stillborn to mothers on valproate – that’s six too many. However, six is a huge reduction in the numbers we have seen in previous years. You also only have to look at the prescribing trends to see Valproate is becoming the last resort in the child baring age category. Those of us who have had our seizures controlled by valproate will never advocate for having a child on valproate, especially when there are other options.
A lot of work has been done to ensure valproate is not being prescribed in plain white boxes and that the information about risks is given out at the same time. Again, there are still times this is not happening. It isn’t ok that people are still slipping through the gaps, and we must keep fighting to ensure those women get all the information they need at the right time.
My fear when reading the article was those who are least likely to engage would step back even further from the conversation, for fear this medication would be snatched away from them. If you happen to be a woman living with that fear, I would say to you please reach out and have the conversations, as nobody is going to do anything without your consent. It is so vitally important that you have all information available to you.
So as more on valproate emerges in the coming days, please remember my words – valproate is a coin of two sides. The first, the awful harm caused and the cover-up that followed. The second, a drug that allows women to live their life. The good that has come from that flip side should be acknowledged, and at the same time all the information on risks must be available to women. All I will ever ask for is that women are given all the information and then given a voice. So rather than a gamble when that coin is flipped, women can firmly place it the side up they wish it to be.