Valproic acid (2-n-propylpentanoic acid, VPA) is well-established as a mood-stabilizer for bipolar disorder, in addition to its application as a treatment in neurological disorders such as epilepsy, migraine headaches, and chronic neuropathic pain. Its mechanisms of actions in any of the disorders have not yet been fully elucidated but currently include GABA-ergic inhibitory effects, the suppression of NMDA-mediated excitatory neurotransmission, and possibly effects on monoamines and cerebral glucose metabolism. Given the rising use of VPA by women of reproductive age for various conditions it is increasingly important to understand how VPA affects reproductive and metabolic function in women, yet a number of key issues regarding VPA use in women of reproductive age remain unclear. These include the question of whether VPA use is associated with the development of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)-like features (such as elevated androgen concentrations and/or chronic anovulation). The metabolic effects of VPA use, particularly on insulin sensitivity and weight gain, are also important to understand. Lastly, questions of VPA use during pregnancy and lactation require continued attention. This article reviews the current understanding of VPAs mechanisms of action, effects on the reproductive and metabolic system, and teratogenic qualities, highlighting important future areas of study.
Valproate, bipolar disorder, menstrual abnormalities, PCOS, insulin resistance, hyperandrogenemia, anovulation, reproductive dysfunction
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