Pregnancy, epilepsy and medication: Knowing the risks

Te hapūtanga, te mate huki me te rongoā: me mōhio ki ngā mōreareatanga
24 July 2019 by ACC
2 minute read

If you're taking medication for epilepsy, mood stabilisation or pain and want to start a family, talk to your doctor.


Jackson, Tash, and Jaz face incredible challenges in everyday life. Their mothers didn't know that taking anti-epileptic medication could harm their unborn baby.

Foetal Anti-Convulsant Syndrome New Zealand (FACS NZ) have created a video series that highlights the condition can have on a whānau.

FACS can cause physical malformations such as heart defects, cleft palate and spina bifida. It's also known to cause learning and behavioural difficulties.

Anti-epileptic medications are used for epilepsy, mood stabilisation and pain. The multiple uses of these medications means many people don’t realise that they may be prescribed an anti-epileptic. This means they may not be aware of the possible risks of the potential harm the medications could have on the health and development of their baby.

$3.5 Million
the average lifetime cost of a single FACS claim

We want to reduce the incidence of FACS, which can be caused when an unborn baby is exposed to anti-epileptic medications during pregnancy.

The risk to the baby depends on which medication is taken, the dose, and whether more than one anti-epileptic medicine is being taken. Sodium valproate has been identified as the most likely to cause harm.

In cases where the pregnant person was not informed of the risk to her child, FACS is recognised as a treatment injury and is covered by ACC. A single case of FACS costs ACC on average $3.5 million over the lifetime of a child.

Finding the right information for you

If you're concerned this may apply to you or someone you know, talk to your doctor. They'll work with you to find a safe course of action. You should never change or stop your medication without talking to your doctor.

The full suite of videos can be watched on our YouTube channel. 

YouTube - FACS NZ video series

Comprehensive information on the medical aspects of FACS is available in the brochure below.

Are you taking medicines for epilepsy, mood or pain? 

More information on support, education and awareness is available on the official FACS website. 

FACS NZ website

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