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The Pain of an SSRI Birth Defect

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Washington, DCAs difficult as depression is to manage, the potential for SSRI birth defects following the use of antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors is even more tragic—and life-changing for the infant involved.

Often, the infant does not survive.

A woman who posted to babycenter.com at the end of May lamented the loss of her four-month-old daughter after open-heart surgery. "She had a complete AV canal defect (no separation between the 4 chambers of her heart and missing valves) as well as multiple holes in her heart," the grieving mother writes.

The infant had difficulty breathing from birth and would turn blue, "and by two months she had developed pulmonary hypertension." The infant, in the end, didn't survive. An autopsy revealed "advanced, severe pulmonary hypertensive vascular disease that was of an extremely unusual degree for a 4-month-old infant."

The tragedy is that the mother was not aware of the "link between PPHN and taking antidepressant during pregnancy," she writes. "This is something I did not know about prior to my pregnancy with my daughter."

SSRI side effects include PPHN, or primary pulmonary hypertension of the newborn. The lung disorder is characterized by a severe restriction of the arteries, 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.

Some infants recover. Others can die within weeks or months. Some have been known to survive just a few days.

Another woman posted on harmfulduringpregnancy.com that she used to take an SSRI antidepressant," but quit many months before becoming pregnant. Soon after my baby was born, he was diagnosed with PPHN, and seeing what he went through, I can tell you, if you can do okay without the medication, don't risk taking it. It's heartbreaking to see a baby struggle with PPHN."

The debate as to whether or not an SSRI antidepressant should be halted, or restricted during a pregnancy is ongoing. Stopping a needed antidepressant for the duration of a pregnancy can not only put a severely depressed mother (and by default, her fetus) in danger, the rollercoaster of emotions has been shown to cross into the womb and prove a detriment to the child.

At the same time, however, maintaining an SSRI into the third trimester can increase the risk for PPHN in the infant, a diagnosis that can emerge within 12 hours of birth, if not sooner. Some SSRI birth defect lawsuits claim that the mothers of adversely impacted infants did not even know the risks.

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