One of the most important considerations you should make when starting a new medication is, with your doctor’s help, weighing the possible benefits of the drug against the potential side effect risks. Only by doing this can you determine whether or not a particular treatment is safe for you and, if you’re pregnant, safe for your baby as well. To facilitate this process and to protect the safety of consumers, drug companies are obligated to provide accurate drug information to patients, doctors and the FDA. Unfortunately, some pharmaceutical companies skirt this responsibility, withholding side effect information in order to serve their own corporate interests. For example, the antidepressant Pristiq (desvenlafaxine), while a popular treatment for major depressive disorder, may significantly increase a child’s risk of birth defects when taken during pregnancy. When side effect information like this is concealed from the public, women may take these medications during pregnancy, unaware of the life-threatening harm they may be exposing their unborn child to. If you took Pristiq while pregnant and your child was born with one or more serious birth defects, consult an experienced birth defect attorney for legal help.
Birth defects may seem like a one-in-a-million occurrence, but the rate of birth defects is actually much higher – more like one in thirty-three. One in every thirty-three babies is born with a birth defect, caused by a disturbance in the child’s development in the womb. Birth defects can be categorized as structural, developmental or metabolic, and can affect the way a child grows, learns, develops, hears, sees, and thinks. The major birth defect possibly linked to the SNRI antidepressant Pristiq is persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), a life-threatening condition that can cause serious complications almost immediately after birth. In PPHN, the newborn’s flow of blood continues to bypass the lungs, as it did in the womb, depriving the rest of the body of the oxygen it needs to survive. Without immediate treatment, PPHN can lead to devastating complications and premature death of the baby.
Most birth defects occur during the first trimester of pregnancy, before many women are even aware they are pregnant. It is during this time that a baby is most vulnerable to harm, since early pregnancy is when the baby’s vital organs and bodily structures are beginning to develop. Any interruption in this process, including use of a potentially dangerous medication, can prevent one or more parts of the body from forming properly, possibly resulting in serious birth defects. Although some birth defects are caused by genetic factors, and are therefore unavoidable, others may be caused by pharmaceutical drugs, which is entirely preventable. Women who are pregnant should be especially careful of what they put into their bodies, as any pharmaceutical drug they take could adversely affect their unborn child. However, because nearly half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, all women of childbearing age taking a potentially dangerous medication are advised to use two reliable methods of birth control.