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Antidepressants And Pregnancy Birth Defects

Birth injury lawsuits against Pfizer and other antidepressant companies are becoming more common. In Philadelphia alone, a couple hundred Zoloft lawsuits are pending before federal court. The plaintiffs in those lawsuits claim that Zoloft did not do enough to warn pregnant women of the risks of taking Zoloft during pregnancy and that their infants suffered serious injury. Furthermore, they believe that Pfizer actively advertised the drug to pregnant women even though it knew Zoloft caused birth defects.

Do antidepressants cause birth injuries? When is it OK to take an antidepressant during pregnancy? What should you do if you believe your antidepressant caused your pregnancy birth defect?

Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension Of The Newborn

In 2012, research published in the British Medical Journal highlighted the risks of taking various selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during pregnancy, including antidepressants such as Zoloft, Prozac and Paxil. The researchers said that the drugs more than doubled the risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns (PPHN).

PPHN can cause heart defects, lung damage, brain damage, spinal cord damage and other serious birth defects. As many as two of every 1,000 infants suffer from PPHN after birth.

The British Medical Journal report echoes 2006 findings by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which warned that SSRIs increase the risk of birth defects. The FDA has since retracted its warning because it believes the studies are unclear on the risks of using antidepressants during pregnancy.

Why don't we have clear data on the effects of antidepressants on fetuses? It would be unethical to perform a drug study on pregnant women, so we must rely on animal studies and after-the-fact data from infants who have already been injured. Most drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, spend significant time on the market before they are found to be harmful to pregnant women.

Should I Take An Antidepressant During Pregnancy?

Because the link between antidepressants and birth defects is not clear, many doctors will encourage their patients to continue using Zoloft, Paxil and other antidepressants during pregnancy. In some patients, the risk of injury caused by depression and anxiety is greater than the risk of taking antidepressants. Pregnant women with severe depression may not be able to take care of themselves and may deprive their babies of important nutrients or even skip medical appointments.

For those with mild depression, however, it may be best to stop using antidepressants during pregnancy. Even an unknown risk should be enough to make a pregnant woman think again. In addition to PPHN, use of antidepressants during pregnancy has been linked to the following injuries and complications:

  • Holes in infant's hearts
  • Low birth weight
  • Problems involving feeding
  • Hypoglycemia/low blood sugar
  • Infant irritability
  • Cleft palate
  • Death

If you are deciding whether to take an antidepressant during pregnancy, speak with a doctor and weigh all of your options.

Recovering Compensation After A Birth Injury

When drug companies adequately warn of the dangers of using an antidepressant during pregnancy, it can be difficult to hold them accountable for birth injuries. Yet, some of the plaintiffs in Zoloft litigation have argued that the drug manufacturer failed to warn of the specific risks that caused their babies harm.

Like the decision to take antidepressants during pregnancy, the decision to file a lawsuit after a birth injury caused by an antidepressant depends on the unique circumstances of each case. An experienced birth injury lawyer can discuss the facts of your case with you and help you decide the best route forward.

BirthInjuryInfo.org™

Located in Philadelphia, Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman, P.C., home of MyPhillyLawyer, serves clients in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, and throughout the United States.
 

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