SSRI Antidepressants Linked to Birth Defects

Recent studies show that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), some of the most commonly prescribed type of antidepressant drugs, can increase the potential for significant birth defects when taken by pregnant women. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s estimated that SSRI drugs make up more than 84% of all antidepressants prescribed to pregnant women. These are prescribed to treat depression or sometimes anxiety. Whatever the case, these drugs have been known to increase the chances of having a baby born with severe head, heart, abdominal, and developmental problems.

About SSRI Antidepressants

SSRI drugs are extremely popular in treating depression because they prevent certain brain receptors from reabsorbing serotonin that has already been released. This neurotransmitter is associated with feelings of happiness and well being, so preventing the reabsorption of old serotonin can help counteract the effects of depression and anxiety.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration categorizes most SSRI drugs as a Category C pregnancy risk, which means they’ve been associated with fetal defects when tested. The FDA tests certain drugs on animals to see if there’s any effect on animal fetuses. In this case, they were. However, there's less information about the exact risk posed to human pregnancies.

Some of the most popular SSRI antidepressant drugs include Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac. One of these drugs, however, has been listed as a Category D drug, which means there is applicable evidence of adverse effects to humans. This drug, Paxil, was associated with serious fetal risks in a clinical trial, which was supported by more than 800 lawsuits against the drug’s manufacturer, each claiming the drug caused serious birth defects.

Do the Benefits Outweigh the Risks?

Depression is not the same as being sad. It’s a serious condition that can lead to dependency, health problems, and even suicide. Medication helps millions of people manage those symptoms. Some mothers may choose to continue taking SSRI drugs throughout their pregnancy if the alternative puts their child at a higher risk. However, they should always be aware of the risks, whether by their doctors or pharmaceutical companies, so they may make that choice for themselves. Many of the existing lawsuits claim that the SSRI drug manufacturers released no such warnings.

Associated Birth Defects

SSRI drugs have been associated with the following birth complications:

  • Premature birth: While dangerous for several reasons, premature birth is especially risky because the baby may be born severely underdeveloped, leading to bleeding in the brain, eye problems, intestinal problems, and feeding issues.
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Low birth weight: Low birth weight can lead to other complications, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity.

What’s Next?

If your child experienced a serious birth defect after you took SSRI antidepressants while pregnant, make sure you know your rights. These medications can be exceedingly dangerous, and may not have been adequately tested for safe distribution to pregnant women. If you are dealing with the repercussions of serious SSRI side effects, make sure you discuss your potential case with a lawyer experienced in handling dangerous drug cases.

Contact Lyons & Simmons to discuss your birth defect case with our Dallas product liability attorneys.
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