Can young women take valproic acid for bipolar disorder?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Medicine
Valproic acid (Depakote®, Depakote® ER, Depakene®, Depacon®, Stavzor™) is used to treat the mood swings of bipolar disorder. This anticonvulsant helps to modulate the excessive bipolar highs and lows. Valproic acid may lead to serious problems in young women who take this medication for bipolar disorder. Valproic acid is known to boost levels of testosterone (a male hormone) in adolescent girls, which can lead to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a common hormonal problem that can lead to infertility. If women take valproic acid before age 20, they are at higher risk of PCOS, which can lead to obesity, excess body hair, menstrual cycle abnormalities, and other symptoms. Women who are pregnant, or who may become pregnant, should not take valproic acid, as it may cause birth defects and lower IQ in the child.

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