Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 25, 2013

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Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) found in antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil and others taken by pregnant women have been linked to birth defects such as skeletal defects, neural tube defects and heart defects. Although most SSRIs carry a pregnancy warning, many SSRI birth defect lawsuits allege that those warnings are simply inadequate.

Possible Birth Defects Caused by Anti-Depressants

Recent studies on SSRIs given to pregnant women whose child developed a birth defect report that SSRIs allow too much serotonin to remain in the area where the cells of the fetus develop – which can cause birth defects such as:

  • anal atresia (a complete or partial closure of the anus)
  • cleft lip – A defect in which a child is born with an abnormal lip.
  • clubbed feet
  • craniosynostosis (an abnormally shaped skull)
  • limb reduction
  • neural tube defects involving the brain and spinal cord
  • omphalocele (a defect in the development of the muscles of the abdominal wall where some organs remain outside of the abdomen)
  • PPHN (persistent pulmonary hypertension)
  • sexual dysfunction

Birth defect lawyers allege that these birth defects could be avoided with more accurate pregnancy category warnings. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) assigns five pregnancy category warnings, A, B, C, D and X – A being the weakest warning and X being the most severe.  Most SSRI drugs carry a C or D warning, but an X warning – which states that studies have shown fetal abnormalities and that the risks of the drug outweigh the benefits – is what many SSRI birth defect lawyers allege should be given to these dangerous drugs. The FDA itself has warned about these serious side effects.

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SSRI Pregnancy: Women Don’t Know About Anti-Depressant Birth Defect Side Effects

Most women won’t ingest anything if there’s a chance that it would harm their child. In fact, many won’t drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, smoke or eat certain types of fish in fear of developing mercury poisoning. So, why would a woman choose to take an anti-depressant drug during pregnancy that had the potential of causing an anti-depressant birth defect?

The answer, according to many lawyers , is that they didn’t know about birth defect side effects because they were told by their doctors that these anti-depressants were completely safe or that they were already taking them and shouldn’t stop – regardless of their pregnancy. Although anti-depressants generally carry a warning about the potential side effects on a pregnancy, before adequate warnings came out doctors were under the impression that these drugs were safe.  Many women have been misinformed, and have taken anti-depressants without knowledge of the potential for negative side effects.

It is important for any woman taking anti-depressant medication to be aware of its effect on their pregnancy.  Some birth defects can develop early in the pregnancy, before a woman is even aware that she is pregnant.

Birth Defects Lawsuits

If your child developed a birth defect due to anti-depressant use while you were pregnant, you may have a birth defect lawsuit against one of the manufacturers of products such as Paxil, Effexor, Celexa, Lexapro, Zoloft or Prozac – also known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).  In order to investigate an anti-depressant birth defect claim, lawyers need proof that the mother ingested an anti-depressant during the first or third trimesters while they were pregnant. That can come from pharmacy records, medical records or the pill bottle itself. Evidence of the child’s injury is also needed. If you have those two pieces of information, that’s enough to contact a lawyer and begin the process of obtaining all the medical records and having an expert evaluate the case.

The time you have to file an anti-depressant birth defect lawsuit will depend upon the law of an individual state. Some states have a one year statute of limitations; other states have two or three year statutes of limitations, meaning it’s typically one, two or three years from the date of the injury or the date that the parents learned of the injury or the date that the parents link the injury to the medication to file a lawsuit. Regardless of where you life, you should alert an attorney the moment you suspect your child has suffered a birth injury defect as a result of anti-depressants taken during pregnancy.  Avoid having a lawsuit dismissed because you took action too late.

Damages Available

The types of damages which might be available to an injured child or his or her parents might include the recovery of past and future medical expenses, compensatory damages, the pain and suffering not only of the child, but of the parents who have to watch their child go through these multiple surgeries. A component of pain and suffering and emotional distress damages would also potentially be sought in these types of SSRI birth defect cases. There is also the potential of punitive damages as a result.

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SSRI Birth Defect Lawyer

If your child has suffered an SSRI birth defect injury, contact an experienced birth defect lawyer to discuss your situation. Regardless of whether you took Paxil, Effexor, Celexa, Lexapro, Zoloft, Prozac or any other SSRI drug, you and your child may be entitled to compensation for your SSRI birth defect damages.  Contact an experienced attorney and get the assistance you need in your legal case.