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New Study Highlights PPHN Risk Linked To SSRI Antidepressant Use In Pregnancy

Pregnant woman

The findings of a new study provide further evidence that side effects of SSRI antidepressants taken during pregnancy may increase a child’s risk of suffering a life-threatening birth defect known as persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like PaxilZoloft and Prozac are some of the best-selling drugs in the United States, prescribed to patients suffering from major depressive disorder and other conditions like anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, serious concerns have been raised about the safety of SSRI use in pregnancy, which has been linked to the development of major birth defects in exposed babies. Contact our lawyers at Bandas Law Firm today if you took an SSRI antidepressant while pregnant and your child was born with a congenital malformation.


PPHN is a rare birth defect that prevents newborn babies from adapting to breathing outside the womb. Babies affected by this condition typically require intensive care and the use of mechanical ventilators to help them breathe properly. In severe cases of PPHN, the birth defect can result in multiple organ damage, brain damage and even death. Previous research has identified the use of antidepressant drugs in pregnancy, particularly SSRI antidepressants, as a risk factor for the development of PPHN birth defects. However, in a new study published this week by the British Medical Journal, researchers suggest that the risk of PPHN actually increases the later in pregnancy the potentially dangerous medications are used.


In the SSRI antidepressant study, Canadian researchers examined data from seven different studies and determined that, while early exposure to SSRI drugs was not tied to an increased risk of PPHN, exposure later in pregnancy did result in an increased risk that was statistically significant. “The absolute risk difference for development of persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn after exposure to SSRIs in late pregnancy was 2.9 to 3.5 per 1,000 infants; therefore an estimated 286 to 351 women would need to be treated with an SSRI in late pregnancy to result in an average of one additional case of persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn,” the researchers wrote.


In December 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning to consumers and the medical community about the connection between SSRI antidepressant use in pregnancy and PPHN. As a result of this known risk, hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against the makers of SSRI antidepressants like Zoloft, Paxil and Celexa, on behalf of patients who accuse the company of failing to provide adequate warnings about the risks of PPHN and other birth defects associated with the drugs when taken during pregnancy. If you took an SSRI antidepressant drug while pregnant, and your child was born with a severe birth defect like PPHN, consult our knowledgeable lawyers at Bandas Law Firm today to discuss your legal options.