Selective serotonin reuptakes inhibitors (SSRIs) are a form of antidepressant medication. They increase the level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is associated with feelings of happiness, in the brain. This type of drug is generally used to treat conditions like anxiety disorder, depression, eating disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Although it was originally permitted to be administered during pregnancy, studies have shown that SSRIs can cause birth defects.
Types of SSRI Birth Defects
The birth defects that are associated with SSRIs vary significantly. They can be very minor or extremely severe, with heart problems being the most common. The severity may depend on the mother’s dosage, when it was taken during the pregnancy, and a host of other factors.
Examples of SSRI birth defects include:
- Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) (where the baby cannot breath outside of the womb properly)
- Malformation of the brain and skull
- Arterial and septal defects (holes between the heart’s chambers)
- Cleft palate
- Abdominal wall defects
- Heart murmur
- Spina bifida
- Malformed or blocked heart values
- Partial or complete closure of the anus (anal atresia)
The SSRI label does not include all types of antidepressants, but it does include a number of very well-known medications. These medications are marketed world-wide and millions of Americans use this type of drug on a daily basis. Common SSRI medications include:
There is also some evidence that birth defects may result from taking SNRIs (serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) as well. Effexor is a well-known example of an SNRI.
SSRI Birth Defect Studies
One of the first studies on SSRIs and birth defects was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It found that women who took SSRIs during their third trimester of pregnancy were six times more likely to deliver babies that had PPHN or would develop primary pulmonary hypertension.
A study on Prozac occurred in 1996. It reported that if women took Prozac while they were pregnant, then they were two times more likely to deliver a baby that had three or more “minor abnormalities.” This study was published two years before the FDA approved Prozac for use in the United States.
In 2005, a study from Denmark reported that infants who were exposed to SSRIs during the mother’s first trimester were 60% more likely to develop a congenital heart defect (problem with the heart’s structure). Two years later, another study reported that a child whose mother took SSRIs during her first trimester was two times as likely to develop a septal heart defect (hole in the heart). Another study in 2009 showed similar results.
Women are often not aware of the risks associated with taking SSRIs during pregnancy. One of the major reasons that SSRI birth defects occur is because women did not receive sufficient warnings about the dangers of continuing to take them during pregnancy.
The Dixon Injury Firm understands that knowing that your child’s heart defect could have been prevented is hard to deal with. We also realize that doctors, medicine, and surgeries to deal with a birth defect are trying and expensive. We can help you (and your child) assert your rights. Call us at 855-552-2337 for a free case evaluation.
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