SSRI Birth Defects

The SSRI birth defects lawyers at Arentz Law Group, P.C. are dedicated to employing the full extent of their experience, knowledge, and considerable resources to defending the rights of families whose children suffer these congenital malformations. SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidepressants including Zoloft, Topamax, Paxil, Prozac, and Celexa, have been linked to a number of serious and potentially fatal heart birth defects when taken by pregnant women. According to recent studies, children whose mothers use SSRIs during pregnancy may be up to 60% more likely to be born with a birth defect. According to our dangerous drug lawyers, the families of children born with defects tied to exposure to antidepressants in the womb may be owed substantial financial compensation for their damages.

How Depression Works

It is estimated that one out of ten Americans is treated for depression.  There are many more that are undiagnosed and go without treatment.  For those who do not suffer from depression there are many myths surrounding this mental illness that need to be busted.  For instance, depression is not sadness.  Being sad is a state of mind caused by external factors, such as the sorrow felt after losing a basketball game.  Depression is an ongoing feeling of listlessness that is caused by abnormal chemical composition in the brain.

The brain uses 3 different neurotransmitters in order to function.  Serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine all help play a crucial role in a person’s ability to think clearly, rationally, and stay emotionally stable.  When one, or all, of these chemicals are out of balance, various forms of mental illness are manifest.

For those suffering from depression, these neurotransmitters are scarce.  Recent studies have shown that this is due to an enzyme called monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A) being found in abundance.  This enzyme helps to break down the neurotransmitters leaving the individual feeling “off.”  That feeling leads to depression.

In order to combat the depression the patient has several options.  It is shown that regular exercise helps to release more dopamine into the body.  And sunlight (or bright light in general) helps to boost the serotonin levels in the brain.  However, sometimes natural remedies are not enough; so many people turn to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s), a form of antidepressant medication that helps to increase serotonin levels.  The most popular SSRI drug on the market: Zoloft.  The result is that the patient feels better, yet at the same time they are subjecting themselves, and their unborn babies, to unnecessary risks.

Commonly Prescribed SSRIs


Celexa lawyers at Arentz Law Group, P.C. are currently working with a number of families who have been affected by antidepressant birth defects.  Celexa (citalopram) was approved by the FDA in 1998, and it is used to treat depression and anxiety.  A member of the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) family of antidepressants, Celexa is used by millions of Americans every day.  Unfortunately, Celexa taken during pregnancy has been linked to a number of alarming and potentially fatal birth defects, including heart, lung, cranial, and abdominal birth defects.  If you have a child who was born with a congenital birth defect after his or her mother used Celexa during pregnancy, you could be entitled to compensation in a dangerous drug lawsuit.  Contact a Celexa lawyer at Arentz Law Group, P.C. today to schedule a free and confidential legal consultation and discussion of your rights.

Celexa Birth Defects

In 2006, the FDA issued a Celexa birth defects warning, stating that use of Celexa during pregnancy could lead to a higher likelihood of giving birth to a baby with a life-threatening lung defect known as PPHN (persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns).  In addition to PPHN, Celexa has been linked to the following birth defects:

  • Ventricular Septal Defects
  • Undescended Testicles
  • Truncus Arteriosus
  • Tricuspid Valve Stenosis
  • Tricuspid Atresia
  • Transposition of the Great Vessels
  • Tetralogy of Fallot
  • Spina Bifida
  • Pulmonary Stenosis
  • Pulmonary Atresia
  • Premature Birth
  • Physical Defects
  • Patent Ductus Arteriosus
  • Omphalocele
  • Neural Tube Defects
  • Mitral Valve Defects
  • Intrauterine Growth Restriction
  • Intellectual Disability
  • Iniencephaly
  • Hypospadias
  • Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome
  • Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome
  • Hydronephrosis
  • Hydranencephaly
  • Heart Murmurs
  • Heart Defects
  • Hand Birth Defects
  • Gastroschisis
  • Fetal Death
  • Esophageal Stenosis
  • Esophageal Atresia
  • Encephalocele
  • Ebstein’s Anomaly
  • Down Syndrome
  • Dandy-Walker Syndrome
  • Craniosynostosis
  • Cranial Defects
  • Coarctation of the Aorta
  • Clubfoot
  • Cloacal Exstrophy
  • Cleft Palate
  • Cleft Lip
  • Autism
  • Atrial Septal Defects
  • Aortic Stenosis
  • Anencephaly
  • Anal Atresia
  • Abdominal Defects

Lexapro birth defect lawyers at Arentz Law Group, P.C. are highly experienced in dangerous drug litigation.  We are currently working with a number of families to file Lexapro birth defect lawsuits after a child they love was born with a congenital birth defect because his or her mother used Lexapro during pregnancy.  If a child in your life was born with PPHN, septal heart defects, omphalocele, or another birth defect and his or her mother took Lexapro during pregnancy, the medication may be to blame for your child’s birth defect.  Contact a Lexapro attorney today to learn about your legal options and potential right to compensation.

Lexapro Birth Defects

Lexapro is one of the most popular SSRI antidepressants in use today, with more than 18 million prescriptions current for Lexapro in the United States.  Unfortunately, research and adverse event reports show that when taken during pregnancy, Lexapro can cause serious and potentially fatal birth defects, such as:

  • Anal Atresia
  • Aortic Stenosis
  • Bone malformations
  • Club Foot
  • Clubfoot
  • Coarctation of the Aorta
  • Craniosynostosis – cranial skull defect
  • Esophageal Stenosis
  • Gastroschisis – abdominal wall defect
  • Heart Murmur
  • Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS)
  • Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome (HRHS)
  • Mitral Valve
  • Omphalocele and other intestinal malformations
  • Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
  • PPHN
  • Pulmonary Atresia
  • Pulmonary Stenosis
  • Skull deformities such as craniosynostosis
  • Spina bifida and other neural tube defects
  • Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF)
  • Transposition of the Great Arteries / Vessels
  • Tricuspid Atresia
  • Tricuspid Valve (Ebstein’s Anomaly)
  • Tricuspid Valve Stenosis
  • Truncus Arteriosus
  • Valve Problems – malformed or stuck and won’t close
  • Ventricular or Atrial septal heart defects

Lexapro Birth Defect Lawsuits

The antidepressant birth defect attorneys at Arentz Law Group, P.C. are working to help victims nationwide recover just compensation for medical expenses and other damages suffered as a result of Lexapro birth defects.  In a dangerous drug lawsuit against the maker of Lexapro, Forest Laboratories, we have evidence that shows:

  • Forest Laboratories underplayed and attempted to hide the fact that Lexapro can cause birth defects
  • The drug maker willfully advertised that Lexapro causes minimal side effects
  • Forest Laboratories overlooked a number of medical studies that concluded that there is a link between Lexapro and certain birth defects
  • The drug maker did not fully investigate the accuracy of the Lexapro warning label
  • The drug maker was negligent in a failure to monitor post-market literature about side effects traced to Lexapro
  • Forest Laboratories failed in its responsibility to conduct post-market research into Lexapro and surveillance of Lexapro users

Paxil birth defect lawyers at Arentz Law Group, P.C. are currently working with families who have a child who was born with a severe birth defect after his or her mother used Paxil during pregnancy.  A member of the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) family of antidepressants, Paxil was approved in 1992 and is used to treat millions of Americans for depression and anxiety.  The FDA has taken steps to strengthen Paxil warning labels because an association between Paxil and serious and potentially deadly birth defects has been noted in a number of respected studies.  If you have a child with a birth defect that could be linked to use of Paxil during pregnancy, you could be entitled to compensation in a Paxil birth defect lawsuit.

Paxil Birth Defects

Paxil is categorized as a Pregnancy Class D drug, which means that studies in humans have shown a risk to the fetus when Paxil is taken during pregnancy. In fact, Paxil has been so strongly associated with heart birth defects that the FDA has ordered stronger warning labels be placed on the drug.  Two independent scientific studies have shown that babies whose mothers use Paxil during pregnancy are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to develop cardiac birth defects.  The most common Paxil heart defects are atrial and ventricular septal defects, which are holes in the walls of the heart.  

In addition to septal heart defects, Paxil has been linked to the following birth defects:

  • Anencephaly (Neural Tube Defect)
  • Cleft Lip
  • Cleft Palate
  • Clubbed Foot
  • Craniosynostosis (Skull Malformation)
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Hypoplasia
  • Hypoplastic Right or Left Heart Syndrome
  • Limb Malformations
  • Lung Defects
  • Omphalocele (Abdominal Defect)
  • Spina bifida
  • Tetralology of the Fallot
  • Transposition of the Great Arteries

Most Paxil and antidepressant birth defects are formed during the first trimester of pregnancy, when many women are not yet aware that they are expecting.  For this reason, the FDA has advised doctors to exercise caution when prescribing Paxil to women who are of childbearing age./su_spoiler]

Prozac birth defects lawyers at Arentz Law Group, P.C. have developed a strong reputation across the United States for their tenacious representation of victims of dangerous drugs.  Prozac (fluoxetine) is a popular antidepressant that belongs to the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) family of drugs.  Approved by the FDA in 1988, Prozac is commonly prescribed to treat depression, anxiety, panic disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.  While Prozac is sometimes prescribed to help women deal with anxiety during pregnancy, the drug has been shown to increase the risk of severe or fatal birth defects when taken by expecting mothers.  If a child in your life was born with a congenital birth defect after his or her mother used Prozac during pregnancy, our Prozac birth defect attorneys would like to hear your story.

Prozac Birth Defects

A study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology reached the conclusion that 105 in every 10,000 children exposed to Prozac in the womb were born with a hole in the heart known as a ventricular septal defect.  Similar studies found that children born to women who used Prozac during pregnancy had more than double the chance of being born with a birth defect than children whose mothers did not use Prozac when they were expecting.  In addition to ventricular septal defects, babies born to mothers who took Prozac during pregnancy are at a heightened risk for the following birth defects:

  • Coarction of the aorta
  • Hypoplastic left heart syndrome
  • Pulmonary stenosis
  • PPHN
  • Tetralogy of fallot
  • Transposition of the great arteries
  • Craniosynostosis
  • Cleft palate
  • Cleft lip
  • Club foot
  • Omphalocele
  • Atrial septal heart defects
  • Spina bifida
  • Anal atresia
  • Autism
  • Neural tube defects
  • Anencephaly
  • Aortic stenosis
  • Cloacal exstrophy
  • Dandy-Walker Syndrome
  • Down Syndrome
  • Ebstein’s Anomaly
  • Encepohalocele
  • Esophageal atresia
  • Gastroschisis
  • Hand birth defects
  • Hydranencephaly
  • Hydronephrosis
  • Hypoplastic left and right heart syndrome
  • Hypospadias
  • Patent ductus arteriosus
  • Iniencephaly
  • Mitral valve defects
  • Tricuspid atresia
  • Tricuspid valve stenosis

The FDA has classified Prozac as a Pregnancy Category C drug.  This means that a risk to the fetus has been indicated in animal studies, but studies in humans have not yet shown that the risk of birth defects is greater than the benefits of the drug or the risks women and babies may face if the medication is discontinued.  Even if a baby is not born with a serious birth defect after his or her mother used Prozac during pregnancy, there is still a chance that the baby could suffer symptoms of withdrawal, including poor feeding, agitation, and insomnia.


The anticonvulsant drug topiramate was discovered in the late 1970’s.  Over the next 17 years scientists working for subsidiaries of Johnson & Johnson developed the drug into what is now known under the brand name Topamax.  The drug was initially used to help those with epilepsy.

Simply put an epileptic seizure occurs when the brain becomes over stimulated and a sort of electrical storm occurs.  Too many signals are being sent in too many directions, and it causes the body to spasm, convulse, and basically shut down.  To combat this Topamax works with the brain to calm these signals and allow normal firing patterns between the neurons.

Read more about Topamax and the side effects suffered.


In 1991 the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer introduced Zoloft to the market.  This selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) has been prescribed to millions of people to help combat mental illness.  While depression is the main illness treated, the medication has also been used to help treat anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders, PTSD, and other diseases.

In the late 1980’s SSRI’s became available.  It was at this time that Pfizer was researching sertraline (the drug found in their medication Zoloft).  Combined with the effectiveness of the drug, powerful marketing, and a trend toward less physical exercise and obesity (two items that have been linked to higher rates of depression), antidepressant popularity has skyrocketed.  Currently it is estimated that 1 out of every 10 Americans takes some sort of antidepressant.  In 2007 alone the drug was prescribed nearly 30 million times.

Read more about Zoloft and the side effect risks.

Heart Defects linked to SSRI Antidepressants

SSRI antidepressants such as Zoloft and Lexapro have been linked to a high rate of cardiac birth defects, including:

Atrial Septal Defects
One of the most common birth defects associated with SSRIs are atrial and ventricular septal defects, which are essentially holes in a baby’s heart. With an atrial septal defect, a hole in the septum (the wall that divides the upper chambers of the heart) can increase blood flow to the lungs. Not only does this create more work for the heart, but it can also cause permanent damage to a child’s lungs. In some cases, an atrial septal defect is minor enough that the hole closes naturally during the first years of a child’s life. However, some children who have more severe atrial septal defects may need heart surgery and can face a shortened life expectancy.
Ventricular Septal Defects
Similar to an atrial septal defect, a ventricular septal defect is a hole in the wall, or septum, which separates the ventricles (the lower chambers of the heart). This can also lead to excess blood distribution to the lungs, as well as pulmonary hypertension, bacterial infections of the heart, heartbeat irregularities, heart valve leaks, and even growth and developmental delays.  While this type of heart defect may also mend itself in a child’s early years, larger holes will need to be closed surgically and the child may also need to take special medications such as diuretics or digitalis.
Additional SSRI Heart Defects

Other cardiac birth defects that may be caused by the use of SSRIs during pregnancy include:

  • Hypoplastic left heart syndrome
  • Patent ductus arteriosis
  • Tetralogy of Fallot
  • Transposition of the great arteries
  • Coarctation of the aorta
  • Double aortic arch
  • Double inlet left ventricle
  • Double outlet right ventricle
  • Tricuspic atresia
  • Truncus arteriosus

Other Birth Defects Cause by the Use of SSRIs

Oral Cleft Birth Defects

Oral cleft birth defects such as cleft lip and cleft palate have been linked to the use of antidepressants during pregnancy. When a child is born with a cleft lip, there is an opening in the upper lip which can range in severity from a small notch to a large opening that extends into the nose. With cleft palate, the tissues in the roof of the mouth do not join as they should.

Oral cleft birth defects are more than cosmetic. They can also cause the following health threats:

  • Difficulty eating
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Respiratory problems
  • Failure to gain weight
  • Growth problems
  • Recurrent ear infections

In most cases, it is possible to rectify a cleft palate or cleft lip through surgery which is usually conducted when a child is between the ages of 9 and 12 months.


PPHN (persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns) is a serious congenital birth defect which has been linked to the use of SSRIs and other antidepressants during pregnancy. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the risk of developing this potentially fatal birth defect is up to six times higher for babies whose mothers used SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy.

When a baby is developing in the womb, he or she receives all nutrition and oxygen needed to sustain life through the umbilical cord. Healthy babies’ lungs begin to provide oxygen immediately when the umbilical cord is cut, but in babies with PPHN the blood vessels that lead to the lungs don’t expand as they should. This means that the lungs may not get enough blood flow, and may cause the following symptoms:

  • Respiratory distress
  • Rapid respiration
  • Blue tone to the skin
  • Weak pulse

Babies affected by PPHN are connected to ventilators, which may help the arteries that lead to the lungs open as they should. In more extreme cases, however, babies with PPHN must be hooked up to a machine that helps add oxygen to the blood and removes carbon dioxide. Despite treatment, babies with PPHN may suffer the following health consequences:

  • Seizures
  • Kidney failure
  • Shock
  • Brain hemorrhage
  • Heart failure
  • Organ damage
  • Death
Spina Bifida
The most common birth defect associated with life-long disability, spina bifida, which translates to “split spine”, is the result of the failure of a spinal column to properly close during a baby’s development. While spina bifida is not fatal in all cases, there is no cure for this condition and it may present the following health complications:
  • Learning disabilities
  • Developmental delays
  • Paralysis
  • Incontinence
  • Obesity
  • Altered sensation in the skin
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Depression
  • Difficulty walking
  • Hydrocephalus

For some patients, surgery may be conducted to help prevent infection and reduce the symptoms of spina bifida.

Contact a Birth Defect Lawyer

If you have a child who was born with a congenital birth defect that you think may be linked to use of SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy, the lawyers at Arentz Law Group, P.C. may be able to help you recover compensation to help with medical bills, therapeutic and pharmaceutical costs, and even lost wages.  You may also be compensated for your pain and suffering.  We know that the costs of caring for a child with a birth defect can be intimidating, and funds recovered from an SSRI birth defect lawsuit can help secure the best care for your child now and into the future.  To learn more about antidepressant birth defects and your rights, contact our SSRI attorneys today to schedule a free meeting with a member of our legal team.

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