About Fetal Valproate Syndrome (Valproic Acid)

Fetal Valproate Syndrome Birth Defect, Multiple

Fetal valproate syndrome is a term applied to the development of several different congenital birth defects as a result of exposure to valproic acid during pregnancy.  It can involve a number of different conditions.

Fetal Valproate Syndrome Causes, Incidence, and Risk Factors

Using medications that contain valproic acid is the cause of fetal valproate syndrome.  Anti-seizure medications are the main type of drugs that contain the chemical, which is an anticonvulsant.  Medications containing valproic acid include:

  • Depakote
  • Divalproex
  • Dalpro
  • Epival
  • Myproic Acid
  • Depakene

Several other disorders such as autism and learning difficulties have also been linked to the use of the medication.  Mothers taking anticonvulsants containing this chemical should consult with their doctor to avoid potential problems with their child

  • Use of valproic acid during pregnancy makes you two to five times more likely to give birth to a child with birth defects.
  • Lower IQ scores have also been associated with the drug.

Fetal valproate syndrome involves several different birth defects including:

  • Spina Bifida
  • Trigonocephaly
  • Facial deformities, including deformities that evolve with age

Fetal Valproate Syndrome Symptoms

Numerous symptoms will be present in cases of fetal valproate syndrome.  Common signs that your child has this condition include the following.

  • Trigonocephaly, which is a structural defect of the skull resulting in a triangular shaped head.
  • Flat nasal bridge
  • Thin upper lip
  • Smaller than average mouth that is turned downward
  • Cleft palate or cleft lip.
  • Eyebrow deformations.
  • Anteverted nostrils.
  • Thick lower lip
  • Spina bifida.
  • Other musculoskeletal malformations.
  • Neurological problems.
  • Congenital heart defects.
  • Facial features that seem to evolve with growth.

Fetal Valproate Syndrome Diagnosis

In most cases a physical examination and examination of prescription medicines will be enough to diagnose fetal valproate syndrome.  Because many different problems can make up the condition, several scans and diagnostic tests may be ran.

  • Echocardiogram – This test will be used to uncover any problems with the heart, ensuring that no congenital heart defects exist.
  • MRI – A magnetic resonance imaging test will likely be employed to find the exact nature of facial and skull deformations.

Fetal Valproate Syndrome Treatment

Treatment of fetal valproate syndrome as a whole is not really possible, and instead each malformation will have to be dealt with individually.

  • Medications could be given to help control or manage various aspects of the condition.
  • Surgeries will likely be performed depending upon the exact problems.  Surgery to correct heart issues, spinal problems, and cranial deformations will all need to take place in a well-established order.
  • Physical therapy may be needed for many years to help the child overcome different problems.
  • Because mental development is often slowed, private tutors and counselors will likely play a large role in the child’s life.

Fetal Valproate Syndrome Prognosis

An exact prognosis will depend upon the child and the severity of the defect.  In many cases a long life is likely, although many different developmental delays and handicaps may create special needs for the patient.

Fetal Valproate Syndrome Complications

Numerous complications can arise from this condition, each related to different aspects of the defects.  Some include:

  • Blindness
  • Diminished motor skills
  • Slow development
  • Neurological problems
  • Breathing Troubles
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart failure

Contacting your Health Provider

The chances are that your health care provider will notice the signs of fetal valproate syndrome immediately upon birth.

Fetal Valproate Syndrome Prevention

Unlike many other types of congenital birth defects, fetal valproate syndrome is actually preventable in most cases since the exact cause of the condition is the use of valproic acid during pregnancy.  Since it is the only medication that can effectively control some types of seizures it is important that you talk to a doctor if you’re using the medication and planning to become pregnant so that you can be moved onto another type of anticonvulsant.  Lessening the dosage if you become pregnant can help reduce the chances as well.

Fetal Valproate Syndrome References

Nicolai J, Vles JSH, Aldenkamp AP. Neurodevelopmental delay in children exposed to antiepileptic drugs in utero: A critical review directed at structural study-bias. Journal of the Neurological Sciences. 2008

Kini U et al. Dysmorphic features: an important clue to the diagnosis and severity of fetal anticonvulsant syndromes. Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 200

Clayton-Smith J, Donnai D. Fetal valproate syndrome. J Med Genet. 1995

Kini U. Fetal valproate syndrome: a review. Paediatric and Perinatal Drug Therapy. 2006

Fetal Valproate Syndrome Link Resources


Related Conditions


Clinical Research



Posted in Fetal Valproate Syndrome | Leave a comment