Fetal valproate syndrome is a rare disorder that may occur when a fetus is exposed to a medication known as valproic acid during the first three months of fetal development. Abnormal facial characteristics and learning disabilities are the most common symptoms of fetal valproate syndrome. There is no standard treatment protocol for this condition, as each symptom is assessed and treated on an individual basis. Any questions or concerns about fetal valproate syndrome should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.
Valproate is a medication that is used to treat medical conditions such as epilepsy or bipolar disorder. Women are typically cautioned to let a doctor know before becoming pregnant so that this medication can be changed to a drug that is safer for the developing fetus. Many doctors will perform a pregnancy test on women of childbearing age before prescribing valproate. Even with proper precautions, pregnancy does sometimes occur while a woman is taking this medication.
Distinct facial features are common among those born with fetal valproate syndrome. These features may include a short nose, a wide nasal bridge, or arched eyebrows that are spaced farther apart than normal. The differences in facial features associated with this syndrome are often subtle and not readily noticeable by the general population. These features usually soften over time and may not be noticeable at all by the time the child reaches adolescence.
Additional symptoms of fetal valproate syndrome may include mental retardation, learning disabilities, or a variety of developmental delays. Muscle, bone, or nerve damage may be present in some children born with this condition. A significant number of children born with fetal valproate syndrome experience some degree of respiratory distress. Some studies indicate that children born with this condition may have an increased risk of developing epilepsy or schizophrenia, although this claim has not been fully substantiated.
There is no specific treatment available for fetal valproate syndrome because the symptoms can vary widely from one person to another. Physical or occupational therapy may be useful for those who have muscle or nerve problems as a result of this condition. Speech therapy may be recommended for those who struggle in this area. Special tutors may be assigned once the child reaches school age so that the full educational potential of the child can be met. In the event of severe complications, surgical intervention may be required, although this rarely occurs.