Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, also known as SSRIs, are a specific type of antidepressant used to control symptoms of depression. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 11 percent of Americans take some type of antidepressant, including SSRIs such as Zoloft, Prozac and Paxil.
An estimated eight percent of women use an antidepressant during pregnancy but numerous research studies have indicated that doing so may put both mother and baby at risk for complications. A Canadian study published earlier this year in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology determined that SSRI antidepressant use could contribute to an elevated risk of pulmonary hypertension in women who used the drugs prior to and during pregnancy. Specifically, women who used SSRIS while pregnant had up to a 53% greater chance of developing hypertension.
Another study published in July 2011 in the Archives of General Psychiatry suggested that women who use SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy are twice as likely to give birth to a child who will be diagnosed with autism or a related disorder. Another study published in that same journal in March 2012 found that fetuses who are subjected to SSRI antidepressants while in utero are more likely to have delayed growth and development, resulting in smaller head size and lower body weight at birth.
In addition to the potential for these types of complications, SSRI antidepressants have also been linked to serious birth defects. Both Zoloft (sertraline) and Paxil (paroxetine) have been linked to congenital heart defects. Research studies have also indicated that mothers who use Paxil during pregnancy may put their child at greater risk for neural tube defects. Other complications linked to SSRI antidepressants include club foot defects, lip and palate defects and persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN).
Numerous lawsuits have been filed in connection with birth defects caused by Zoloft, Paxil and other SSRI antidepressants. The plaintiffs in these cases allege that the companies responsible for manufacturing these drugs were aware of the birth defect risk but failed to adequately warn consumers. If you or a loved one has given birth to a child with a heart defect or other abnormality that you believe was caused by SSRI antidepressant use, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. It’s recommended that you contact an experienced SSRI birth defects attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal rights.