Our firm is reviewing SSRI antidepressant birth defect lawsuits for all SSRIs, including Zoloft, Prozac, and Celexa. (We are specifically not reviewing Paxil cases. If you have a potential Paxil birth defect lawsuit, you should contact another lawyer.) If your child suffers from a birth defect and you were taking an antidepressant, call 800-553-8082 or get a free online consultation from a lawyer here.
Approximately one fifth of pregnant women are affected by depression and 3.7% are reported to use anti-depressants during the first trimester. Discontinuing the use of anti-depressants may result in depressive episodes and relapse, putting both the mother and fetus at risk. Since 1990, SSRI antidepressants have been used during pregnancy and are now recommended as first-choice antidepressants in many countries. Recently, there have been concerns surrounding the use of serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serious birth defects. SSRIs are a group of anti-depressants which includes Paroxzetine, Sertaline, Citalopram and Fluoxetine among others. Fluoxetine is known under the trade names of Prozac, Fotex and Sarafem.
Serotonin reuptake inhibitors have been associated with newborn withdrawal and birth defects including persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), cardiovascular malformations, anencephaly, craniosynostosis, omphalocele and autism spectrum disorder. SSRI antidepressants are known to pass through the placenta to the fetus.
PPHN is a life-threatening condition which occurs at a rate of 0.1-0.2% of births and has a 10% rate of death. It usually occurs in full or post term babies and is a condition where babies have high blood pressure in their lung blood vessels resulting in a deficiency of oxygen in their blood. Though usually associated with C-sections, diabetes and asthma, recently exposure to SSRIs inutero have been linked to PPHN. This observation has been documented in peer reviewed journals by several researchers. The rate of risk is estimated to be approximately 3.5%.
Initial evidence suggested use of SSRIs during pregnancy is associated with cardiovascular malformations. In 2005, the FDA issued a warning for the use of Paroxetine during pregnancy due to the suspected risk.
A study reported by the New England Journal reported that SSRI antidepressant use during pregnancy was associated with a 2.4% risk of anencephaly, 2.5% risk of craniosynostosis and 2.8% risk of omphalocele. Anencephaly is a condition where the fetus grows without a forebrain, skull and scalp. The fetus does not usually survive birth. Craniosynostosis is an abnormal growth pattern of the skull which results in abnormal head shape and facial features. If the skull does not provide adequate room for the brain, the intracranial pressure may result in visual impairment, mental development and reduced IQ. Omphaloacele is a birth defect of the abdominal wall in which organs such as the liver and intestines remain outside the abdomen in a sac.
Elevated serotonin during pregnancy due to the use of SSRI antidepressants has been suggested to be a factor in the development of autism. A study released in 2011 found that children exposed to SSRIs during development in the womb had a 2-fold increased risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The study reported an increased risk of 2.2% with the greatest risk occuring when used during the first trimester (3.8%). There was no increase in risk in children of mothers who used SSRIs prior to, but not during pregnancy.
Other concerns have been raised with respect to the use of SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy including neonatal neurological adverse effects on the central nervous system and miscarriage. To date there is no conclusive clinical evidence, however prenatal exposure to SSRIs has been shown to alter newborns’ response to pain, up to two months of age. A study reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2010 reported that mothers filing at least one prescription for antidepressants during the course of their pregnancy experienced a two-fold higher rate of spontaneous abortion (miscarriage). The study also reported on the various types of antidepressants with respect to miscarriage and found that use of SSRIs during pregnancy resulted in a 1.6% increase in risk of miscarriage. Furthermore, use of SSRIs is also suspected of leading to increased risk for premature birth and low birth weight.
Though recommendations have been made for practitioners to assess the risk benefit ratio for mothers with psychiatric illness to continue use of SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy, further research and patient education are warranted.
If your child has a birth defect and the child’s mother was taking an SSRI, you may have a potential antidepressant birth defect lawsuit. Call today at 800-553-8082 to get information about your potential claim or get a free online consultation from a lawyer here.