Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of antidepressants including the popular drugs Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro, Prozac, and Celexa that have come under heightened scrutiny lately due to reports that they lead to increased risk of birth defects in children. SSRIs are the subject of numerous lawsuits across the country, and manufacturers have already paid out billions of dollars to settle these cases.

Complications reportedly associated with SSRIs have been wide-ranging, including cardiac defects, persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN), Tetralology of the Fallot (TOF), abnormal skull development, Ventrical Septal Defect (VSD), gastrointestinal abnormalities, cardiac defects, brain defects, Atrial Septal Defect, and many others. One Danish study showed that taking certain SSRIs during the first trimester of pregnancy could lead to double, and in some cases, triple the risk of certain alleged SSRI birth defects.

Zoloft is the most popular SSRI, and is manufactured by Pfizer. In 2005, the last year before its patent expired, Zoloft’s sales totaled over $3 billion. In 2007, reports surfaced that women taking Zoloft while pregnant were twice as likely to have a child with a birth defect or complication as other women who took a different class of antidepressants. Lawsuits involving Zoloft increased after the FDA released a Zoloft alert in 2006 that the drug and other SSRIs significantly increased the risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) and other birth defects.

Paxil, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), has also not been a stranger to controversy, as the manufacturer has already paid out over $1 million in settlements. These lawsuits were filed after the manufacturer released a study in 2005 that Paxil birth defects were twice as likely as birth defects in children whose mothers took an alternative antidepressant.

While SSRIs can improve a patient’s mental health, they may also pose significant risks to pregnant women. Recent reports show that drug use during pregnancy is on the rise, which could mean more children are at risk for being born with birth defects. Before taking medication while pregnant, especially SSRIs, talk to your doctor and weigh the risks and benefits. If you or a loved one has delivered a child with a birth defect after taking an SSRI, contact a knowledgeable attorney to seek legal recourse and compensation for medical bills and other damages.