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MPs call on government to back #SafeMumSafeBaby campaign

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Nicola Swanborough

MPs call on government to back #SafeMumSafeBaby campaign

Last night, in the House of Commons, Emma Hardy MP called on the government to back the Epilepsy Society’s campaign for funding into vital research into safer epilepsy medications during pregnancy.

Her remarks came as she closed a two-and-a-half hour debate on the failure of the government to respond in full to the recommendations of the Cumberlege report, ‘First Do No Harm’. 

The debate marked the one-year anniversary of the damning report which looked at the way the health service had treated women, including those prescribed the epilepsy medication, sodium valproate.

Up to 50 per cent of babies exposed to the drug during pregnancy are born with physical or neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Government apology

Patient Safety Minister Nadine Dorries re-iterated the government’s apology made a year ago for the harm caused to women and their families by sodium valproate and the two medical devices Primodos and vaginal meshes.

She told the chamber: “Having spoken to those who have been harmed and read the report, which makes very harrowing reading, I want to make that apology again. I am desperately sorry. I have heard the stories of harm, which are harrowing. I am desperately sorry for those women who have been harmed. Of course, we all want to ensure that this ends and never happens again.”

Safe Mum, Safe Baby campaign

Epilepsy Society’s campaign “Safe Mum, Safe Baby” is calling on the government to make sure history is not allowed to repeat itself by funding vital research into safer medication for women with epilepsy during pregnancy.

Following  Nadine Dorries’s comments, Emma Hardy told the minister: “Epilepsy {Society}  is looking into a campaign called “Safe Mum, Safe Baby” for alternative medications for women to use, and one of the campaigns is to ask the Government for money to help to fund some of that research. I hope that, in the light of the comments the Minister has made regarding valproate, that is something that the Government will look kindly upon.”

Urgent call for funding

Nicola Swanborough, Head of External Affairs at the Epilepsy Society, said the charity was delighted to receive the backing of MPs including  Emma Hardy and Cat Smith during the debate. She thanked Ms Hardy for sending out a very clear message to the government about the urgency of the charity’s call for funding.

“We know we cannot turn the clock back for women whose families have been devastated by the side effects of valproate,” she said. “But we can stop this from happening again in the future.

“A report from the Commission on Human Medicines has shown that, sadly, valproate is not the only epilepsy drug to increase risk of disability in babies during pregnancy. This means many women will  face terrible dilemmas during pregnancy, having to choose between drugs that will stop their seizures or drugs that will be safer for their babies.

“But we believe that science could resolve this by identifying at a genetic level exactly which women will have an adverse response to which drugs during pregnancy. Science of course costs money but that money could save future generations from living with totally preventable disabilities.

“The government has shown great initiative in establishing a Women’s Health Strategy and it has committed to increasing the amount spent on research and development. Now it needs to join the dots and allow its world-class scientists to carry out world-class research that will change the lives of tomorrow’s children.”


Find out more about the campaign and to read the review

Sign our petition

Please sign our petition calling on the government to fund vital research into safer epilepsy medications that will stop babies being born with preventable disabilities.


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