The antidepressants known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) include popular medications like Prozac® (fluoxetine), Paxil® (paroxetine), Zoloft® (sertraline), Celexa® (citalopram), and Lexapro® (escitalopram).1 These prescription medications have been associated with birth defects when taken during pregnancy.
Birth defects associated with SSRI use
Twenty to thirty percent of newborns born to mothers who used SSRIs during the final terms of their pregnancies suffer from disorders:2
- Abnormal muscle tone
- Low sodium levels
The risk of heart defects at birth is also slightly higher among these babies compared to those whose mothers do not take SSRIs. Studies have found a risk of birth defects for all SSRIs currently on the market, but paroxetine appears to carry more risk.2 3
Specifically, paroxetine is associated with defects in the right ventricle, whereas fluoxetine is associated with isolated ventricular septal defects3 (holes in the tissue separating the two ventricles).4 Babies born to women who take more than one SSRI during pregnancy have four times the risk of septal defects in the heart.5 The FDA has also warned that SSRI use by pregnant women in the second half of pregnancy can result in persistent pulmonary hypertension. These infants may also exhibit irritability, difficulty feeding, and difficulty breathing.6
Treating depression during pregnancy
Almost one-fourth of women deal with depression during pregnancy. Depression during pregnancy can harm the baby, just as the medication to treat depression might also cause harm. Expert guidelines recommend that a woman with mild depression manage her symptoms with psychotherapy, light therapy, and support groups, avoiding medication if possible. However, severe depression is often treated with medication, despite the increased risk of birth defects.7
Antidepressant birth defect lawsuits
Several lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturers of SSRIs because they failed to warn consumers of the potential risks associated with the medications.8 If you took SSRIs during pregnancy and had a baby born with birth defects, a personal injury attorney can help you decide if you have a case. Only a lawyer specializing in SSRI birth defect lawsuits can guide you in filing a lawsuit for compensation.