Let’s Talk About SSRIs

The causes of birth defects are numerous and varied. Many of them are still shrouded in mystery, leaving some pregnancies harmed in the midst of perfectly healthy ones. But in the past several years, one factor has risen to the surface as having devastating potential for birth defects.

Multiple cases have emerged showing that SSRI anti-depressants significantly heighten the risk of ventricular heart defects, brain and spinal cord defects and major cardiovascular anomalies.

blog_7_22SSRI stands for selective serontonin reuptake inhibitor. They are used to treat social anxiety, chronic panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, along with depression. SSRIs work by stopping the brain’s nerve cells from re-absorbing serotonin (commonly thought of as the “feel-good hormone”), which it usually does after releasing serotonin into the body. When the serotonin is allowed to hang out longer in the gaps between nerve cells, it’s easier for the brain to regulate mood.

That is the theory, anyway. In practice, SSRIs have proved very controversial.

This very common class of drugs includes:

  • Celexa
  • Lexapro
  • Luvox
  • Paxil
  • Prozac
  • Zoloft

While helping with one disorder, these drugs have been linked to all kinds of new disorders in patients. These include sexual dysfunction, flu-like symptoms (such as nausea, headache, chills, aches and dizziness), pulmonary hypertension, gastrointestinal bleeding and, of course, the risk of birth defects posed to children exposed to the drugs in utero.

The Birth Defect Link

In July 2011, a clinical study by researchers from Finland was published in the journal Obstretrics and Gynecology examining the risk of major congenital anomalies to babies whose mothers used SSRI drugs during pregnancy. The findings were cautious; researchers concluded that the absolute risk for specific kinds of cardiac anomalies (meaning heart defects in the babies) was small, but significant enough to encourage caution in the use of these drugs.

“These findings,” they write, “should guide clinicians to not consider fluoxetine [Prozac] or paroxetine [Paxil] as the first options when prescribing these drugs to women planning pregnancy.”

The interesting part is that certain drugs affected certain specific parts of the heart–fluoxetine was associated with damage to the ventricular septal defects, while paroxetine was associated with the right ventricular outflow tract.

For more on other studies linked SSRIs and birth defects, check out our birth defect prevention guide for expecting parents.

SSRI and other drug-related pregnancy risks are particularly difficult for doctors to determine, since every expectant mother’s body (and health history) is different. Unlike situations that involve environmental toxicity, for example, it is challenging to establish a definite pattern among birth defects associated with SSRI drugs.

However, here at Perey Law and elsewhere, we have noticed a marked recurrence of birth defect cases associated with these drugs. And we are committed to pursuing the truth on your behalf, in order to get you the justice and reparation you deserve.

Getting Help

A child born with a birth defect has a challenging road ahead. The emotional and financial impact to the child’s family is also considerable. We can’t change the damage done to your child’s health by the risks associated with use of SSRI drugs. What we may be able to do, however, is help you rebuild your family’s future by securing the compensation due to you when pharmaceutical drugs that were supposed to be safe instead cause harm.

Call the Perey Law Group today at 206.443.7600 for a no-cost consultation on your situation. We are ready to listen and do everything we can to help.