A SOUTH Cumbrian mother of two is backing calls for a public inquiry into the drug she believes has had lifelong damaging side effects for her son.

Nicola Stephens, Burton-in-Kendal, has been taking sodium valproate to manage her epilepsy since she was 14-years-old.

When she decided she wanted to start a family, she sought medical advice to find out if the medication could be harmful to any children she may have.

She was told that there was a risk of spina bifida and cleft pallets but nothing else As a result, she continued on her dosage of 2000mg a day and gave birth to son Oliver.

"Within about six weeks [of giving birth] I just knew that something wasn't right," Mrs Stephens said. "Since Oliver being a baby we've had a lot to contend with, with various diagnoses and seeing various doctors."

Now 12-years-old, Oliver deals with dyspraxia, autism, problems with his chest and anxiety and his mum said that he has 'trouble' at school because he is 'different'.

Oliver has been formally diagnosed with foetal anticonvulsant syndrome. Mrs Stephens believes this is a result of her taking sodium valproate during pregnancy.

"I feel angry, guilty, frustrated," Mrs Stephens, 38, said. "I think if you were taking other medications during the pregnancy there's more guidance given. There was definitely no guidance given to myself or lots of mums who have taken this drug."

Mrs Stephens has a younger daughter, Grace, who she believes has a less severe case of foetal anticonvulsant syndrome but it has not been formally diagnosed.

During a debate in the House of Commons, Westmorland and Lonsdale MP raised Mrs Stephens' case and called for the government to fund the financial costs of dealing with the effects of the drug.

And there were suggestions last week from former health minister Norman Lamb that an inquiry could be set up to investigate the drug.

Leading a backbench business debate on the issue in the Commons, Mr Lamb said that about 20,000 babies were estimated to have been affected by sodium valproate since the 1970s.

"There is a case for an inquiry or for a Hillsborough-style panel to understand how on earth this outrageous scandal could ever have happened, how it has gone on for so many decades letting down so many families across our country, and what lessons can be learned to ensure that this never, ever happens again," he said.

Mr Lamb told MPs that information had been withheld about the drug's impact in the 1970s despite knowledge of the risks, while the message about its dangers was still not reaching women today.

The European Medicines Agency has held a hearing to consider whether further regulatory action is necessary.