SSRIs Side Effects Include Birth Defects, Autism, And an Increase in Suicidal Behavior

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, are widely used antidepressants that are associated with many side effects. Along with minor complications, such as fatigue and weight fluctuations, SSRIs can increase the frequency of suicidal thoughts among adolescents. Taken during pregnancy, the drugs can also cause severe birth defects and autism in newborns. At San Diego Injury Lawyer, we are experts in defective drug claims and mass torts. If you are suffering from SSRIs side effects, our San Diego, CA, attorneys can help. They will thoroughly study your case and, if applicable, help you pursue compensatory and punitive damages. 

Pills next to an overturned bottle

An Overview of SSRIs

There are various types of SSRIs used to treat depression. Doctors also prescribe them for a number of off-label uses, such as the treatment of obsessive compulsive disorder and irritable bowel syndrome. The medications are designed to block the brain’s absorption of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to balance mood. Common SSRIs include:

  • Zoloft®
  • Prozac®
  • Lexapro®
  • Paxil®
  • Celexa®
If SSRIs are taken during the second and third trimester, children are 87% more likely to be diagnosed with autism.

SSRIs and Birth Defects

Although SSRIs have been hailed as a low-risk way to treat depression, the drugs have been linked to an increased risk for severe birth defects.

  • Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN): When an unborn baby does not receive enough oxygen, it can damage the heart, brain, and lungs. Normally, when a baby is born, the blood pressure in the lungs will slow down. Then the infant can start breathing independently. With PPHN, the blood pressure never drops, and blood flows away from the heart. Often, the baby will need assistance breathing. The resulting oxygen deprivation can cause additional problems.
  • Heart defects: Atrial septal defects are the most common type of heart problem associated with SSRIs. These holes in the heart can impact blood circulation as well as breathing. Eventually, the strain on the muscle can lead to heart failure.
  • Cleft lip and cleft palate: These birth defects occur when the two sides of the hard palate do not grow together correctly. The conditions can cause facial disfigurement, speech difficulties, feeding problems, and struggles with social development.
  • Respiratory distress syndrome: When the lungs do not develop properly, a baby may struggle to breathe and eat. The condition can also weaken a child’s immune system.
  • Ancephaly: Ancephaly is one of the most tragic neural tube defects. In affected children, the front part of their brain does not develop. As a result, they are stillborn or live for only a few hours after birth.

SSRIs and Autism

Autism is a complex group of disorders caused by abnormal brain development. Affected individuals can have mild to severe symptoms, depending on where they fall on the autism spectrum. In general, patients have difficulties with social interactions, verbal and non-verbal communication, and repetitive behavior. In 2015, JAMA Pediatrics published an extensive study on the link between SSRIs and autism. They found that the drugs do not pose a significant risk during the first three months of pregnancy. However, if SSRIs are taken during the second and third trimester, children are 87% more likely to be diagnosed with autism.

SSRIs and Suicide

Although SSRIs are intended to combat depression and anxiety, they can also increase the risk of suicide. The risks are especially high among children. Studies show that when adolescents took the drug, 4% experienced suicidal thoughts, attempted suicide, or committed suicide. In a control group, only 2% of adolescents experienced these behaviors. In 2004, the FDA issued a warning about SSRIs and the risk of suicide in young children. In 2006, they expanded their warning to include all users under the age of 24.

Other Side Effects of SSRIs

In addition to these grave side effects, SSRIs can have other, less serious consequences. These include:

  • Insomnia
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Decreased libido
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches

Obtain Experienced Legal Counsel

If you or a loved one has suffered after taking SSRIs, our attorneys can provide a free consultation to help you understand your options. In recent years, a growing number of people have taken cases to court, and they have won millions of dollars. Many cases are still pending. By joining your case with theirs, you could obtain compensation for your medical bills and for pain and suffering. Equally important, you could help draw attention to the dangers of these common drugs. Contact our firm to learn whether you are eligible for an SSRI lawsuit.