SSRIs and Birth Defects

Zoloft®, Paxil and other Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) Linked to Birth Defects

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) include drugs like Zoloft®, Paxil, and Prozac that are generally used as antidepressants.

Recent studies have shown that using SSRIs while pregnant increases the risk of birth defects. These birth defects include, but are not limited to Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension (PPHN), heart, lung, abdominal and cranial defects.

Zoloft®, is an antidepressant that is generally prescribed to treat major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social phobia/social
anxiety disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

Common Birth Defects

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has warned patients that taking Zoloft® or any other SSRI during pregnancy has been directly linked to Congenital Heart Defects. These birth defects were 5 times more likely to occur in women who have taken it during pregnancy. The most common defects are Heart Defects, Persistent Pulmomary Hypertension and Abdominal & Cranial birth defects. The heart defects were, in most cases, Atrial and Ventricular Septal Defects, which are characterized by holes in the walls of the chambers of the heart.
Heart-related birth defects range in severity from minor, which may resolve without treatment, to severe conditions, which usually require surgical repair. Other birth defects include:

PPHN: Persistent pulmonary hypertension
(PPHN) is a serious and life-threatening lung condition that occurs soon after birth of the newborn.  The study found that women who took SSRIs during their third trimester were six times more likely to deliver babies born with PPHN—or to have babies that would develop primary pulmonary hypertension—than women who did not take SSRIs during their third trimester.
PPHN is a very serious birth defect, and even with treatment a child suffering from PPHN may experience shock, heart failure, brain hemorrhage, seizures, kidney failure, organ damage and even death. Infants who survive PPHN may have long-term breathing difficulties, seizures, developmental disorders and hearing loss. Another study showed that mothers who took antidepressants during pregnancy gave birth to children who experienced withdrawal symptoms such as seizures, tremors, gastrointestinal problems and sleep disturbances.

Abdominal Birth Defects: GSK –GlaxoSmithKline, maker of Paxil, sent a letter to doctors and healthcare professionals in September, 2005 advising them of a Paxil label change that, according to data obtained from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study of infants, women who took an SSRI-antidepressant were more likely than those who were not exposed to have an infant with omphalocele (an abnormality in newborns in which the infant’s intestine or other abdominal organs protrude from the navel). The strongest effect was reported to be with Paxil, paroxetine, which accounted for 36% of all SSRI exposures.

Cranial Birth Defects: GSK –GlaxoSmithKline included in the September, 2005 “Dear Doctor” letter that the authors of the above study also found an association of exposure to any SSRI-antidepressant and giving birth to an infant with craniosynostosis (a congenital defect). Craniosynostosis occurs when the bones prematurely close during the first year of life, which causes an abnormally shaped skull.

Club Foot: Recent studies conducted by the Institute of Reproductive Toxicology at the University of Ulm, Germany and the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University found that some women who took SSRIs throughout their pregnancy had children born with club feet. True club foot is a malformation. The bones, joints, muscles, and blood vessels of the limb are abnormal. An infant with club foot has a foot that is inturned, stiff and cannot be brought to a normal position.

Neural Tube Defects: Neural tube defects (or NTDs) are birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. The two most common neural tube defects are spina bifida and anencephaly. In spina bifida, the fetal spinal column doesn’t close completely during the first month of pregnancy. There is usually nerve damage that causes at least some paralysis of the legs. In anencephaly, much of the brain does not develop. Babies with anencephaly are either stillborn or die shortly after birth.

Drug companies have downplayed the risk to fetuses of the use of these drugs during the first trimester of pregnancy. However, recent studies have shown a significant increase in occurrence of serious birth defects as a result of using some of these drugs during the first trimester. If you were taking an SSRI before you found out you were pregnant, there is a possibility that your child’s birth defect was caused by the drug — even if you stopped taking it once you found out you were pregnant. Recent litigation has held these drug companies accountable for their failure to warn of these risks. If you or a loved one has taken an SSRI and
given birth to a child with a congenital birth defect, you may be entitled to compensation.

If you or someone you love has taken Zoloft® or another SSRI while pregnant and given birth to a child with a congenital birth defect, you should contact the Plymale Law Firm for a free consultation by filling out the form on this page or by calling us at (877) 328-767­­0.

Comments are closed.