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Background: Sodium valproate is considered the most teratogenic of all anticonvulsant drugs. Internationally, new regulations require women to sign risk assessment forms if initiated on it.
Aim: This study aimed to explore patients’ awareness of the teratogenic risk of sodium valproate.
Setting: Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital, Tshwane, Gauteng.
Methods: We conducted a qualitative study comprising 23 semi-structured interviews with female bipolar patients of reproductive age at a tertiary psychiatric hospital in South Africa.
Results: Patient psychoeducation and self-education is improving as many patients were aware of the risk of teratogenicity of sodium valproate either by being educated or by searching online after developing an interest. Our study identified the need for female patients to be educated about contraceptive use when starting on sodium valproate to avoid pregnancy.
Conclusion: Our study shows that patients are becoming more aware of the teratogenic risk of sodium valproate. This suggests that consultations focusing on the issues of conception and the use of sodium valproate in women of childbearing potential has improved.