Lexapro and other SSRIs Linked to Severe Birth Defects

So many women diagnosed with depression have been prescribed anti-depressants, but are these drugs safe during pregnancy? It is reported that women between the ages of 25 and 44 incur a higher rate of depression than any other group, with some estimating that 1 out of every 10 women in the U.S. are taking antidepressants.

SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants and include the brand name Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, Lexapro, Luvox, as well as a growing number of generic versions of these drugs.

SSRIs have been linked to severe birth defects, such as omphalocele and gastroschisis, which are serious, potentially life-threatening abdominal defects, where the baby is born with their abdominal organs outside of the body. It is reported that these conditions are 2.8 times more likely to occur in babies born to women who took an SSRI.

In addition, some babies are born with serious, life-threatening cranial defects, such as anencephaly and craniosynostosis. There is a 2.5 times more likely chance for this to occur if the mothers took an SSRI during pregnancy. Anencephaly is a severe neural tube birth defect, where the upper part of the neural tube fails to close, meaning the baby is born without most of its brain and skull. A study was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealing that anencephaly was 2.4 times more common in babies born to women who used SSRI antidepressants, including Lexapro. Craniosynostosis is when the baby is born with a severely misshapen skull, caused by the soft, bony plates in a baby’s skull fusing too early. Surgery is usually required to relieve intra-cranial pressure and allow the brain room to grow, as well as improving facial appearance.

Other serious birth defects linked to SSRI use during pregnancy are fetal heart defects when taken during the first three months of pregnancy, Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN), a rare heart and lung condition, when SSRIs are taken during the last half of pregnancy, as well as other birth defects. A 2006 study found a six-fold increase in PPHN when the mother was exposed to an SSRI after 20 weeks of gestation. This rare disease prevents oxygen from moving properly to the lungs and the rest of the baby’s body, causing not only immediate problems, but long-term health issues, as well.

In July 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released an announcement warning women about the link between SSRI antidepressants and the potential for PPHN. The lawsuits claim that the drug manufacturers knew about this connection and should have warned women before the FDA took action.

These are very serious side effects. Although SSRIs have been known to help some women when combined with exercise and therapy, does the benefit outweigh the risks? The added anxiety of potentially risking the health and wellbeing of an unborn child can cause greater depression and worry. However, most women say they were not warned about the serious risks associated with the antidepressants during pregnancy.

The first Zoloft bellwether trials are set to begin in October 2014. The first trials for Celexa/Lexapro birth defect lawsuits were set to begin in May 2014. The first Paxil birth defect lawsuit went to trial in September 2009 for failure to warn about the risks of birth defects. A child was born with severe heart malformations, requiring multiple open-heart surgeries during the first six months of his life. The jury agreed that GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) was negligent and awarded the family $2.5 million. In December 2003, more than 1,500 Paxil lawsuits were consolidated in the Central District Court of Los Angeles. Effexor birth defect lawsuits filed in several states and are still moving forward in the courts. Cases filed in 2012 allege that Wyeth knew or should have known the potential risks of the drug and failed to warn the public of these risks.

If you or a loved one took an SSRI during pregnancy and delivered a baby with serious side effects as a result, you may be entitled to compensation. For more information, contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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