Personal Injury Lawyer

Do I Need a Lawyer - Question About Anti-depressants and Birth Defects

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This is an excerpt from one of the recent episodes of 'Do I Need a Lawyer?' hosted by: Gary Martin Hays.

Thanks for joining us!

I'm Gary Martin Hays.

Let's get right to our question.

This is from Maria in Atlanta and she writes:

I just read a report in a woman's magazine that said that taking antidepressants during pregnancy could potentially increase risks of birth defects. I was prescribed an anti-depressant during my pregnancy due to depression.
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How can I find out if my child's birth defects are due to me taking the antidepressant drug during my pregnancy?

More and more evidence is mounting in the medical and scientific community that supports the claim that certain antidepressants are connected with serious birth defects, including congenital heart defects.

Let me give you some examples:

First: There is a study that was featured in Obstetrics & Gynecology that found 105 children for every 10,000 exposed to Prozac while the mother was pregnant developed certain heart defects. The risk of this Prozac birth defect was over double the risk to children born to women not on the drug while pregnant.

Here's another study:

This was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007.
The study indicated that, while first trimester use of antidepressants may be connected to development of birth defects in general, specific drugs cause differing defects.
The study showed correlations between Zoloft and defects affecting the tissue separating the chambers of the heart.
It also showed Paxil causing obstruction in the right ventricular outflow tract in the heart.

Here is a list of other serious birth defects that have been connected to taking antidepressants while pregnant:

· Atrial/Septal defects

This is a congenital heart defect. Normally, the right and left atria of the heart are separated by the septum. However, with this defect, there is no separation and the blood flows freely between the two chambers. So you have oxygen rich blood from the left side of the heart mixing with oxygen poor blood on the right side of the heart. This leads to lower than normal oxygenated blood - blood that flows to the brain, organs and tissues.

· Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the newborn (PPHN)

Sometimes referred to as Persistent Fetal Circulation.
This occurs when the newborn's circulation system does not adapt to breathing outside the womb.

· Limb defects

This is where the fetus's limbs or extremities do not form properly while the baby is in the womb.

· Cleft lip and palate

· This is a condition where there is abnormal facial development during the gestation period.
· Neural-tube defects

These are birth defects of the brain, spine, or spinal cord.
The two most common are spina bifida - where the spinal column doesn't close completely and there is some paralysis of the legs. The other is called anencephaly. This is where most of the brain and skull do not develop.

· Autism spectrum disorder

This is a neurological disorder which results in complex developmental disabilities related to social interaction and communication skills.

The names of the antidepressants listed in these studies are familiar to most people because of the popularity of these drugs.

Here are some of the drugs that have been under investigation for causing birth defects:

· Zoloft
· Prozac
· Celexa
· Lexapro
· Effexor
· Pristiq
· Paxil

The FDA divides antidepressants into 5 different categories.

The categories are broken down as follows:

Category A: "Adequate and well-controlled studies" fail to demonstrate risk in either the first or latter trimesters of pregnancy.

Category B: Animal reproduction studies do not demonstrate risk to fetus, and there are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women.

Category C: Animal reproduction studies indicate an adverse effect, but there are no adequate and well-controlled human studies, and potential benefits may warrant use of the drug by pregnant women despite potential risks.

Category D: Positive evidence of human fetal risk in studies on humans, but also notes that potential benefits may warrant use despite potential risks for pregnant women.

Category X: Demonstrated fetal abnormalities and/or positive evidence of human fetal risk and states that the risks to pregnant women clearly outweigh potential benefits.

Let's organize the drugs in their categories:

Category C

· Zoloft
· Prozac
· Calexa
· Lexapro
· Effexor
· Pristiq

Category D

· Paxil

If you are a woman who was prescribed antidepressants during your pregnancy, It is very important that you consult an attorney about your specific situation.

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