HeadMeds gives young people in the United Kingdom general information about medication. HeadMeds does not give you medical advice. Please talk to your Doctor or anyone else who is supporting you about your own situation because everyone is different. Please read more important details about our site.

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Return to Valproate overview
  1. Use and Action
  2. Warnings and side effects
  3. Sex, drink, weight and everything else

Taking antidepressants  anti psychotic and mood stabilisers original listing
Taking anti-depressants, anti-psychotic and mood stabilisers
It feels like being really tired all the time...but it makes me feel less emotional

You should be careful drinking alcohol while taking valproate.

  • Alcohol can affect your liver function, and so can valproate.
  • Drinking alcohol can lead to mood swings and make your symptoms worse.
  • Alcohol can also make you sleepy and taking it with valproate can make this worse.
  • Make sure you go for your blood tests while you are taking valproate, to check that your liver is working properly.
  • If you do drink with valproate, make sure that it is small amounts and there's someone to look out for you.

Taking valproate may affect your concentration to do things like driving a car or riding a bike

  • You may feel sleepy, confused or dizzy when you start taking valproate.
  • It might be best to stop driving, riding a bike or doing anything that needs strong focus for the first few days, until you know how it affects you.
  • Don't worry - most people do all these things as normal while taking valproate.
  • You must tell DVLA if you have bipolar disorder or any other mental health condition that could affect your driving.
  • You can be fined up to £1,000 if you do not tell DVLA about a medical condition that affects your driving.
  • You may be prosecuted if you are involved in an accident as a result.

Try not to take valproate for the first time just before your exams

  • Valproate can make you feel sleepy or confused in the first few weeks that you take it.
  • You should talk to your doctor about any future exams if you are starting valproate.
  • You might decide together to delay starting it until you have done them.
  • If they are more than a month away, however, you might find that it is better to start valproate to improve your motivation to study.
  • Do not worry - most people do exams as normal while taking valproate

Valproate is not a banned substance in sport

  • Valproate is not a banned substance in sport.
  • Taking valproate may affect your concentration to do things like riding a bike, competitive gymnastics, or anything else that needs a lot of focus.
  • It might be best to stop such sports for the first few days, until you know how it affects you.
  • Don't worry - most people do sports as normal while taking valproate.

Your weight can be affected by valproate

  • Valproate can make some people feel more hungry. If you are eating more you can put on weight.
  • It is very difficult to know how it will affect each person who takes it.
  • Talk to your doctor about this if it worries you.
  • Healthy eating and exercise can prevent weight gain. Exercise is also good at helping with your mood.

Let your family and friends know you are taking valproate so they can support you and help you look out for benefits and side effects

  • It might actually be a great idea to choose a good friend to tell about your medicine when you start taking it. (Or - even better - to take a friend with you to the doctor before you start taking the medicine!)
  • They could look at the medicine leaflet, or at this website.
  • They could then help you to understand whether the medicine helps you to improve or if you get side-effects (sometimes it is hard for us to see it ourselves).
  • The side-effects of valproate might put a strain on your friendships and relationships, especially in the first few days of taking it.
  • Your behaviour may be unusual, for example. It may make you confused and aggressive.
  • These side-effects should get better after a few days.
  • After a few days you should be getting the good effects of valproate, and that should improve your relationships in itself.

Valproate can have side-effects that might affect your sex life

The good effects of valproate may have a good effect on your sex life as your mood calms and you can concentrate on your relationships again.

Some of the possible negative side effects include:

  • Men might get some breast growth
  • If you gain weight, or get other physical side-effects like spots or temporary hair loss, you may just not feel as sexy as before

These effects should pass after the first couple of weeks. If they do not, and this is a problem for you, go back to the doctor and see what else you could try.

Valproate can affect fertility in men and women

  • Valproate has been shown to reduce fertility in men.
  • Valproate can cause polycystic ovary syndrome in young women, which can lead to future infertility.
  • Valproate is should NOT be taken by girls or women who could get pregnant unless you are on the Valproate Pregnancy Prevention Programme (Prevent). So it is important if you are having sex that you use good contraception every time.
  • If you want to try for a baby, you should go back to your doctor and talk about your treatment options and the risks and benefits.
  • Remember babies do better with well mums

Is it safe to take valproate in pregnancy?

  • The short answer is a definite NO.
  • If you and your partner are trying to have a baby, you should go back to the doctor to discuss other treatment options.
  • If you do become pregnant while you are taking valproate, you should go back to your doctor as a matter of urgency. They are likely to need to change you to another medicine and carefully stop your valproate.
  • Valproate taken during pregnancy can seriously affect unborn babies
  • About 10% (1 in 10) may get a birth defect such as spine problems
  • 1 in 3 babies may get a serious development disorder (eg autism, learning disability or ADHD)

Is it safe to breast feed while taking valproate?

  • Valproate can be passed to the baby in the breastmilk but the levels are generally very low and so the risk of side effects in the baby is also low. It is generally thought that it is alright to breast feed while taking valproate, but as everyone is different it is important to seek advice from your doctor or midwife first.
  • Remember that it is important for you to remain well whilst you are bonding with and looking after your baby. For this reason, it may be best to take medicine for your mental health when breastfeeding.
  • Make sure that your doctor, nurse, or health visitor checks your baby for any side effects.
  • It is less likely there will be any long term effects on your baby if you only take valproate during breastfeeding.
  • If your baby was premature or has health problems, then you will need to be extra careful about taking medicines whilst breastfeeding. It may be best not to breastfeed if this is the case, however you should discuss this with your doctor or midwife.
  • If you start valproate whilst breastfeeding you must be using contraception as part of the Valproate Pregnancy prevention Programme