Antidepressant Drugs and Birth Defects - Consumer Justice Foundation

Antidepressant Drugs and Birth Defects

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Antidepressant Drugs and Birth Defects

Babies exposed to antidepressant drugs in pregnancy may have an increased risk of being born with serious birth defects like PPHN.

The most common mindset parents adopt when presented with the topic of birth defects is this: what are the chances of that happening to my child? Actually, the chances are pretty good. Studies have shown that a shocking one in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect, some of which were caused by genetic or unknown factors that could not have been avoided. Regrettably, a significant percentage of severe birth defects affecting babies today are caused by preventable factors, including maternal use of certain medications, namely antidepressants, during pregnancy. Even more unfortunate is the fact that many of these women take pharmaceutical drugs while pregnant completely ignorant of the fact that they could cause their child to suffer from serious and even fatal birth defects. The responsibility that comes with pregnancy doesn’t only lie with the mother though; doctors and drug companies alike have a duty to their patients and consumers to provide them with accurate drug information, a duty which includes notifying them of any birth defect risks their child may face when exposed to medications during pregnancy. However, inadequacies in the healthcare and pharmaceutical drug industry have left pregnant women uninformed and some children with lifelong disabilities or fatal birth defects. If you took an antidepressant drug while pregnant and your child was born with a serious birth defect, contact a qualified birth defect attorney, as your child may be entitled to lifetime care.

What are Antidepressant Drugs?

Antidepressant medications have been around for years and consumers all over the country have been prescribed these drugs by their doctors for a variety of psychological conditions, including major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and more. Unfortunately, as researchers have continued to target antidepressant drugs in their studies, consistent results have indicated that children born to women who take antidepressants while pregnant may have a significantly increased risk of being born with serious birth defects. SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidepressants in particular, like Paxil (paroxetine), Zoloft (sertraline) and Prozac (fluoxetine), may be linked to life-altering and even fatal birth defects in babies.

How to Birth Defects Happen?

For years, researchers and professionals in the medical field have been focusing their attention on the risks some antidepressant medications pose for unborn children when taken during pregnancy. Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to providing women with accurate and up-to-date information about the dangers of using certain drugs while pregnant. Even so, now that the ball is rolling, women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should talk to their doctor about any prescription and over-the-counter medications they are taking so that they can make an educated decision about which drugs are safe for them to take and which aren’t. Because nearly half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, even women who are not yet pregnant but are of childbearing age should pay careful attention to what medications they put in their bodies, and should use two reliable methods of birth control to prevent pregnancy while taking potentially dangerous antidepressant drugs.

When in Pregnancy Do Birth Defects Occur?

During the first few months of pregnancy, babies are just beginning to grow and their major organs and bodily structures are still in the early stages of development. Because babies are particularly susceptible to harm during this time, exposure to any potentially dangerous medications, like antidepressants, can severely interfere with their development, sometimes resulting in catastrophic birth defects. Birth defects are typically categorized as structural, metabolic or developmental, and can affect the way a child looks, moves, thinks and learns. Although the FDA has taken preliminary steps to warn women of childbearing age about the potential dangers of antidepressant drugs, it’s going to take action on the part of consumers, doctors and drug companies to really bring adequate attention to the public health concern.

Antidepressant Medications and Birth Defects

One of the most severe birth defects that may be caused by antidepressant drugs is persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, more commonly called PPHN. This birth defect is congenital, which means it is present at birth, and causes serious complications for affected babies almost immediately. In babies born with PPHN, the flow of blood continues to bypass the lungs as it did when the baby was in the womb, instead of passing through the lungs before returning to the heart to be pumped back out to the body in an oxygen-rich state. As a result of this birth defect, the rest of the baby’s body is deprived of the oxygen it needs to survive and function, resulting in life-threatening consequences. There are a number of other birth defects that may be associated with the use of antidepressant drugs in pregnancy, which mothers should look out for if they believe their child may have been put at risk. There is enough that can go wrong during pregnancy as it is, there is no reason why babies should be exposed to something we as a society know to be risky. If your child was born with a birth defect and you believe an antidepressant drug to be the cause, contact an experienced birth defect attorney today.

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