Depression Drugs Linked to Infant Birth Defects

Depression drugs have been linked to a variety of birth defects and injuries. Hospitals and physicians are responsible for safe prenatal care and deliveries that ensure, as much as possible, a healthy baby at birth without injuries caused by medical negligence. In Illinois, a Chicago birth injury lawyer often sees medical mistakes that result in birth injuries.

Birth Defects vs Birth Injuries

A birth defect is a health problem that’s based on an infant’s DNA. Common birth defects include heart murmurs, cleft palate and Down Syndrome. In some cases, birth defects are caused by medications given to the mother during pregnancy. In Illinois cases, preventable birth defects often prompt medical malpractice lawsuits through a Chicago birth injury lawyer.

A birth injury is a health problem that an infant is born with, and in most cases, completely preventable. Mistakes made by physicians and/or medical staff during pregnancy or delivery can cause serious injuries to an infant. The most common types of preventable birth injuries are caused by:

  • Giving the wrong types or amounts of medications during pregnancy and delivery
  • Twisting and/or pulling the baby during delivery
  • Using birth-assisting tools like forceps improperly
  • Failing to properly monitor the baby for signs of distress
  • Failing to perform an emergency cesarean surgery when necessary

Birth Defects and Injuries Caused by Depression Drugs

Over 30 million people in the U.S. take antidepressant drugs. A significant number of patients include pregnant women who suffer from clinical depression. In many cases, expectant mothers are forced to decide what’s best for them and their unborn baby, despite increased health risks. Should the mother stay on the antidepressant throughout her pregnancy and increase the chances of birth defects, or stop taking the medication and increase her own risk of severe depression and suicidal tendencies.

Although birth defects and injuries from drugs and alcohol are well-documented, prescription depression drugs are also linked to serious infant health risks. In 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a public warning about increased infant health risks associated with certain SSRI medications including Zoloft, Prozac, Lexapro, Paxil, Celexa, and Accutane when given to pregnant mothers. Reports showed increased risks for birth defects and injuries including:

  • Cleft palate or cleft lip
  • Limb abnormalities
  • Hearing and speech problems
  • Tremors and/or seizures
  • Spina Bifida
  • Heart defects
  • Craniosynostosis (a skull growth defect)
  • Autism
  • Persistant Pulmonary Hypertension (PPHN)

According to a clinical study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, infants exposed to SSRI medications have an increased risk of developing autism. The study documents that for pregnant women taking Prozac during their nine month pregnancy term, chances for their baby developing autism doubles. When blood flow to the lungs is constricted, limiting an infant’s oxygen intake, PPHN can occur. If not diagnosed and treated immediately, PPHN can be fatal. The New England Journal of Medicine states infants born to mothers who take Lexapro have an increased risk of 6 times of developing PPHN. In Illinois, a Chicago birth injury lawyer may file a wrongful death lawsuit in these types of medical fatalities.

Who is Responsible for Birth Defects and Injuries?

Since physicians are aware of increased birth defects and injuries linked to SSRI antidepressants, they have legal and ethical obligations to warn pregnant women of these risks. To prevent the risks of birth defects and injuries and legal recourse, most physicians cover themselves legally before writing a prescription for depression drugs. Typically, patients must sign a document stating that they are not pregnant and are not planning to get pregnant within a certain period of time.

In Illinois, physicians who fail to warn their pregnant patients about known risks of antidepressants may face a medical malpractice lawsuit by a Chicago birth injury lawyer. In such cases, the physician would likely be held liable for damages.

Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical company that developed Prozac, has faced numerous lawsuits. Some lawsuits claim that the drug fails to relieve depression symptoms, while others are related to birth defects and infant injuries caused by the use of Prozac during pregnancy.

Birth Injury Statistics

Although birth injuries can result in serious disorders that may last a lifetime, many parents aren’t informed of birth injuries caused by mistakes or negligence. Recognizing a birth injury in an infant can be very difficult, as some birth injuries may not show up right away.

According to CDC statistics, several disabilities are the result of birth injuries caused by medical malpractice during delivery. Mistakes made by physicians and hospitals often transform a normal child into a disabled child. According to government data, six to eight out of every 1,000 infants born in the U.S. are born with a birth injury. Studies show that male infants have a higher rate of birth injuries than female infants. Studies also show that seven percent of birth injuries occur at private, non-profit hospitals.