Antidepressants known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) — such as Prozac, Effexor, Lexapro, Celexa and Zoloft — are among the most popular on the market, with U.S. prescriptions numbering in the tens of millions. But since the drugs’ introduction, researchers have come to realize that they carry a hidden hazard in the form of potential birth defects for the children of pregnant users. If your child or someone you love has suffered a serious birth defect as a result a mother’s use of Zoloft, Effexor or another SSRI, during pregnancy, legal remedies may be available.
Antidepressants and the Risk of Infant Heart Defects
As early as 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a Public Health Advisory in which it announced the results of two studies examining the effects of pregnant women’s SSRI use during the first trimester of pregnancy.
One study concluded that women who took a certain SSRI during the first three months of pregnancy doubled the risk that their babies would be born with a heart defect. In the second study, researchers concluded that babies whose mothers took an SSRI during the first three months of pregnancy had a 50 percent greater risk of developing a heart defect.
These defects could range in severity from relatively minor to potentially life-threatening problems that require major surgery. The most common heart defects identified in the studies were atrial and ventricular septal defects, which are conditions in which the wall between the right and left sides of the heart is not completely developed. A ventricular septal defect (VSD) is a defect in the wall dividing the left and right ventricles of the heart. An atrial septal defect (ASD) involves the inter-atrial septum of the heart. These types of defects can range in severity from small defects that may resolve without treatment, to larger defects that require multiple surgical repairs.
SSRIs and Persistent Primary Hypertension (PPHN)
In 2006, the highly respected New England Journal of Medicine published a study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that babies born to mothers who took SSRIs late in pregnancy had a significantly increased risk of being born with persistent pulmonary hypertension, a potentially life-threatening respiratory disorder. According to the study, the use of SSRIs during the second half of pregnancy may increase the risk of the disorder by as much as six times.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has associated some additional birth defects with SSRIs including:
- Anencephaly, or birth without a forebrain;
- Omphalocele, or birth with organs on the outside of the body;
- Craniosynostosis, or the premature closing of the bones of the infant’s skull;
- Delayed development of bones; and
- Gastrointestinal abnormalities.
Newborns also suffered from withdrawal symptoms, including irritability, high-pitched or weak crying, tremors, poor muscle tone, disturbed sleep, and respiratory distress.
Free, No Obligation Consultation Available for Families
To review a potential case for your child or a family member, request a free consultation and claim evaluation with our law firm. We are currently pursuing cases on behalf of children injured by Zoloft use during pregnancy, as well as Effexor and other SSRIs.