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Septal Heart Defects and SSRIs

Posted on in Birth Defects

Several years ago reports were released regarding antidepressant medications and the link to birth defects. In 2009, noted by WebMD, a study reported that women who take antidepressants during pregnancy may risk that their baby will have a heart defect. And the risk of the baby being born with a defect is greater when the used antidepressant is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). The same goes for moms who switch to an SSRI antidepressant medication early in the pregnancy. Many women experience hormonal changes during pregnancy are prescribed antidepressants as a result. However, it was not clear in the study if all SSRI medications led to the increased risk of heart defect.

In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued warnings about Paxil, an antidepressant similar to the more widely used Zoloft, Celexa, or Prozac. The study found no link between heart defects in babies whose mothers were taking Prozac or Paxil. But, it did find a correlation in mothers taking Celexa or Zoloft. That study, which examined more than 400,000 babies between 1996 an 2003, found that “septal heart defects occurred in 0.5 percent of children born to mothers who did not take antidepressants and 0.9 percent of children born to mothers who did.”

Septal heart disease is when a hole occurs between the heart's chambers. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NIH), the hole changes the normal flow of blood through the heart, which can result in several complications throughout life. While it used to be a life-threatening condition (and it is still considered severe), children who now have a hole in their heart tend to live on to adulthood. Some, according to the NIH, can “live normal, active lives because their heart defects close on their own or have been repaired.”

Reported by DrugWatch.com, the FDA “states that effects on unborn humans remain unproven.” As a result, the FDA has issued a safety grade “C” to the practice of taking SSRIs while pregnant, but has not banned the practice or made it more difficult for doctors to prescribe to pregnant women. Only Paxil carries a grade “D,” which means that it has been proven to cause harm to a human fetus.

If you or someone you know has had a child with a birth defect in the Chicago area and was taking antidepressants during pregnancy, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact the law offices of Newland & Newland, LLP for a free initial consultation today.

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