Depakote is used to treat a variety of types of seizures and works by affecting chemicals in the body that are thought to cause them. It has also been used to treat migraines, manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder and epilepsy. Depakote is manufactured by Abbott Laboratories and was approved by the FDA in 1983.
Depakote had been thought to cause birth defects in fetuses such as retardation of growth, malformations of neural tubes, skeletal defects, and heart malformations, deformations of hands, undescended testes, pulmonary stenosis and spina bifida. Studies have shown that when an expectant mother took Depakote in the first trimester, the risk of birth defects in the unborn child was significantly increased.
In a study conducted in 2010, European researchers studied 98,000 pregnancies and found that babies exposed to Depakote during pregnancy were 12 times more likely to develop spina bifida than babies who were not exposed to the drug. Statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the fetus has a 1-2 percent chance of being born with spin bifida if exposed to Depakote, while babies that were not exposed had a 0.14-0.2 percent chance of being born with the disease.
The 2010 European study also found a link between the use of Depakote and a variety of other birth defects. Atrial septal defects, cleft palates, hypospadias (abnormal development of the urethra in boys), craniosynostosis (premature closure of skull bones) and polydactyly (being born with more than five fingers per hand) were all linked to a mother’s use of Depakote while pregnant. Depakote has also been linked to blood clotting abnormalities, liver failure, developmental delay and autism, or autism spectrum disorder in babies.
Serious side effects may include:
- Unexplained weakness with vomiting and confusion or fainting
- Easy bruising or bleeding, blood in your urine
- Fever, chills, body aches, swollen glands, flu symptoms
- Urinating less than usual
- Extreme drowsiness, lack of coordination, hallucinations
- Double vision or back-and-forth movements of the eyes
- Severe skin reactions, fever, sore throat, swelling in your face or tongue, burning in your eyes, skin pain, followed by a red or purple skin rash that spreads (especially in the face or upper body) and causes blistering and peeling
Less serious Depakote side effects may include:
- Mild drowsiness or weakness
- Diarrhea, constipation, upset stomach
- Changes in your menstrual periods
- Enlarged breasts, weight changes
- Tremor (shaking)
- Hair loss
- Vision changes
- Unusual or unpleasant taste in your mouth