SSRI Antidepressants and Birth Defects
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a group of popular antidepressant drugs prescribed to millions of people in the United States every year – most of them women. Constant changes in a woman’s hormone levels due to pregnancy, menstruation, menopause, and lactation make depression more common for women than it is for men.
Some of the most popular brand-name SSRI drugs include:
Unfortunately, when SSRI medications are taken during early pregnancy, they can have drastic effects on the health of a child. Cardiac defects and impaired development of the skull and abdomen have all been linked to SSRI use. A recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine also revealed that the risk of a birth injury called Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN) significantly increases in women who use SSRIs.
Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN)
Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension is a serious respiratory disorder that renders newborn children unable to adapt to breathing outside of the womb. The pressure in a baby’s lungs fails to change as air enters and inflates it, resulting in oxygen being unable to reach the bloodstream. Around 10-20% of all children born with PPHN do not survive.
The following symptoms may indicate that a child has PPHN:
- Rapid heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Respiratory distress (grunting and flared nostrils)
- A bluish tint to the skin, even when receiving extra oxygen
Sometimes, a doctor examining a child with PPHN will notice the presence of heart murmurs –abnormal or extraneous sounds in a baby’s heartbeat. Children with PPHN may also continue to have low oxygen levels in their blood, even when receiving 100% oxygen to help them breathe.
SSRI Antidepressants and the FDA
In 2006, the FDA mandated that SSRI manufacturers must include warnings on their product labels about the risk for PPHN. The FDA also issued a separate recommendation that pregnant women should not take SSRI antidepressants unless the drug’s benefits critically outweigh the risk to the unborn child.
If your child suffered a birth defect that you believe may have been linked to your use of an SSRI antidepressant, contact an experienced pharmaceutical injury attorney in your area today using the Personal Injury Lawyer Directory.
Despite these warnings, no recall was issued, and many pregnant women remain completely unaware of the risks associated with these antidepressants. Drugs like Paxil, Zoloft, and Prozac are still widely marketed to a large segment of the population.