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New Study Shows Pregnant Women Increase Risk of Malformed Babies with Antidepressants

A recent study shows that one in five children born to mothers taking antidepressants during pregnancy have a brain defect known as Chiari type 1 malformation. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study showed that children of mothers being treated with antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for depression during pregnancy were more likely to develop malformations than children with mothers that did not have depression. Examples of SSRIs include Zoloft and Effexor.

The research cites that, in 2010, more than 254 million prescriptions for antidepressants were written in the United States. Somewhere between 7 and 13 percent of pregnant women take SSRIs despite the studies connecting use of antidepressants during the first trimester to increased risk of heart defects and use during the third trimester increases the risk having a child with primary pulmonary hypertension.

The study analyzed four groups of children. There were 33 children whose mothers took SSRIs compared with 66 children whose mothers who had no history of depression. The second test compared 30 children whose mothers were diagnosed with depression but did not take SSRIs to another group of 60 children whose mothers had no history of depression. Research found that 18 percent, about one in five, children exposed to SSRIs had a brain malformation compared to only 3 percent in children whose mothers had no history of depression.

In a Chiari type 1 malformation, brain tissue in the cerebellum squeezes into the spinal canal. This abnormality can be detected through an MRI brain scan. The cerebellum controls a person’s balance, coordination, muscle movement, and some cognitive functions, so a Chiari type 1 malformation can lead to complications such as trouble standing or walking and poor hand-eye coordination. Other symptoms of this type of deformity are neck pains, difficulty speaking, developmental delays, blurred visions, weakness, and more.

Lopez McHugh, LLP is currently pursuing cases on behalf of children with birth defects related to their mothers’ use of SSRIs. If you believe your child may have an antidepressant birth defect lawsuit, call us or contact us via the website to set up a free consultation.