What is the link between SSRI Antidepressants and birth defects?

In July 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notified healthcare professionals and consumers of a possible link between antidepressant medications and serious birth defects. The study, published in February 2006 in The New England Journal of Medicine, included pregnant women who were treated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), or in a few cases, other antidepressant medications. SSRI medications are the most commonly used drugs to treat depression in the U.S.

Now, a new Swedish study has verified that SSRI antidepressants increase the risk for birth defects when taken by the mother during early pregnancy.

SSRIs and a Combination Drug Containing an SSRI include:

  • Celexa (citalopram)
  • Fluvoxamine
  • Lexapro (escitalopram)
  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Symbyax (olanzapine/fluoxetine)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)

The newest study focused on newborn babies with persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN), which is a serious and life-threatening lung condition that occurs soon after birth. Babies born with PPHN have high pressure in their lung blood vessels and are not able to get enough oxygen into their bloodstream.

In this study, PPHN was six times more common in babies whose mothers took an SSRI antidepressant after the 20th week of pregnancy compared to babies whose mothers did not take an antidepressant. The finding of PPHN in babies of mothers who used a SSRI antidepressant in the second half of pregnancy adds to concerns from previous reports that infants of mothers taking SSRIs late in pregnancy may experience difficulties such as irritability, difficulty feeding and in very rare cases, difficulty breathing.

Other serious birth defects linked to SSRI antidepressants include Birth defects linked to these drugs include serious heart defects, spina bifida, omphalocele (intestines or other abdominal organs stick outside the body), club foot, limb reduction deficits, and craniosynostosis (one or more sutures in the skull prematurely fuses).

Antidepressant (SSRI) Facts

  • SSRIs are the most commonly used drugs to treat depression.
  • 10% to 15% of reproductive age women have major depression.
  • SSRI antidepressants taken in the first trimester have been linked to serious heart defects in newborns.
  • 30% of infants exposed to SSRIs in the womb develop sugar imbalance, sleep disturbances, and difficulty eating.

PPHN Stats

  • 1 to 2 babies per 1,000 born in the U.S. develop persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) shortly after birth.
  • PPHN is six times more common in babies whose mothers took an SSRI antidepressant.
  • Between 10 and 20 percent of babies born with PPHN will die soon after birth.
  • Babies born with PPHN who survive often will have developmental delays, hearing loss, and brain abnormalities.

Do I have a claim?

If you took an SSRI antidepressant during pregnancy, and your baby was born with a serious birth defect, you may have a claim against the manufacturer. Contact us for a no-cost, no-obligation evaluation of your case.

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