A popular antidepressant drug, Zoloft (also called sertraline) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), used to balance brain chemistry to alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and/or panic. It is often used to treat not only depression and various panic and anxiety disorders, but also severe premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well.
Until fairly recently, Zoloft came with no warnings against use by pregnant women and was often prescribed to pregnant women to ease anxiety and depression. However, more recent inquiries and studies have shown a high correlation between use of Zoloft during pregnancy and birth injuries and defects.
Prescribing “C” Class Antidepressants to Pregnant Women
First introduced over 20 years ago in the early 1990s by Pfizer, Zoloft quickly became one of the most popularly prescribed antidepressants on the market. Testing proved that the drug had some harmful effects on animals during testing, and so it was given a “C” classification by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Because it was not tested on infants, however, no side effects regarding infants, birth injuries, or birth defects were reported. Thus, doctors continued to prescribe Zoloft to pregnant women and women attempting to conceive.
As of 2005, researchers and doctors have known that Zoloft use during early stages of pregnancy can cause a 3-5% increase in the likelihood that babies will be born with heart defects. According to one doctor, the reason to continue prescribing Zoloft during pregnancy had to do with balancing the Zoloft birth injury risks associated with SSRI use against the risks of letting a pregnant woman with depression go untreated.
Birth Injuries and Defects Associated With Zoloft
In addition to a small (but significant) increase in the chance of a baby developing a heart defect, mothers taking Zoloft during pregnancy should be aware of the other Zoloft birth injuries and defects associated with taking SSRIs.
- Persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) – Most associated with use of Zoloft in the second and third trimesters, PPHN occurs when, according to the FDA, “a newborn baby does not adapt to breathing outside the womb. Newborns with PPHN may require intensive care support including a mechanical ventilator to increase their oxygen level. If severe, PPHN can result in multiple organ damage, including brain damage, and even death.”
- Anencephaly – A neural tube defect (NTD), anencephaly occurs when a baby is born missing parts of the brain and/or skull. Increased rates of anencephaly are mainly associated with use of Zoloft and other SSRIs in the third trimester.
- Cleft palate – Risk of a cleft lip or palate is also elevated in cases in which a mother takes SSRIs throughout pregnancy.
Who is at Fault in a Zoloft Birth Injury Case?
If a mother is prescribed Zoloft during pregnancy and her baby suffers birth injuries and/or defects, the fault may lie on the doctor who prescribed the antidepressant and/or on the drug’s manufacturer, as well. If, for example, you were prescribed Zoloft during pregnancy and your doctor was aware of but did not warn you about potential injury to your baby, they should be liable for the damages that resulted from taking Zoloft during your pregnancy.
At the same time, the manufacturer of the drug is responsible for giving proper warnings about when and how the drug should or should not be taken. Without these warnings in place, you have the right to pursue a case against them if your baby suffers a birth defect or injury as a result of Zoloft use during pregnancy.
If you or someone you love was prescribed Zoloft during pregnancy, you may have a Zoloft birth injury case. For a free consultation, fill out our online contact form or call us at Bandas Law Firm at 855-427-3332.