SSRI Antidepressants and PPHN

March 17, 2009

The newer antidepressants are classified as SSRIs or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. In several studies over the last few years, SSRI antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, etc. have been linked to birth defects in babies.

In a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, women who took antidepressants in the third trimester delivered babies who were six times more likely to have primary pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) or of developing a lung disorder, primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH) than babies not exposed to SSRIs.

The SSRI birth defect PPHN is a disorder of the lungs in which the arteries are severely restricted, causing the blood pressure in the pulmonary artery of the heart to rise to excessive levels. Blood flow is restricted and oxygen levels in the blood are suppressed.

While in the womb, the baby’s circulation is handled by the placenta, and does not go through the lungs. After birth, the baby’s circulation switches over from the ductus arteriosus (which now closes) to the lungs.

However, in a baby born with PPHN, the ductus arteriosus stays open and the baby’s blood flow continues to bypass the lungs. Since the blood does not enter the lungs, it returns to the heart very low in oxygen.

The baby’s organs, such as the brain, kidneys and liver quickly become stressed due to lack of oxygen. PPHN is usually diagnosed within 12 hours of delivery.

The following symptoms may mean a baby has PPHN: rapid breathing, rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, or bluish skin. The doctor may also hear a heart murmur or observe low oxygen levels in the baby’s blood.

A chest x-ray or ultrasound may help to diagnose whether or not a baby has PPHN. Doctors may order lab tests such as Arterial Blood Gas (ABG), Complete Blood Count (CBC), serum electrolyte tests, pulse oximetry or may do a spinal tap.

Babies diagnosed with PPHN usually need to be cared for in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Pure oxygen will be given to the baby through a tube inserted into the windpipe. An extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine (ECMO) may be used to act as an artificial heart and lung while the baby’s lungs recover.

PPHN is a very serious birth defect, and even with treatment the PPHN baby may experience shock, heart failure, brain hemorrhage, seizures, kidney failure, organ damage and even death.

Babies who survive PPHN may have long-term breathing difficulties, seizures, developmental disorders and hearing loss.

Speak to an SSRI Lawyer about an SSRI Birth Defect Lawsuit

If you took Prozac, fluoxetine, Zoloft, sertraline or any other SSRI antidepressant during pregnancy and your child was born with a birth defect, we encourage you to contact an SSRI litigation attorney at our law firm immediately. It may be too late to recover from the devastating effects of SSRI antidepressants, but an experienced products liability attorney at the Willis Law Firm can assist you in a legal action against the makers of the SSRI prescribed. You are not alone. Join other birth defect victims and their families in speaking up and fighting for your legal rights.

Please fill out our free online legal evaluation form and we will contact you within 24 hours. Please keep in mind that certain states have statutes of limitation that limit the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit or seek legal action. Contact our law firm immediately so that we may explain the rights and options available to you and your family.

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