Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants and benzodiazepines are common medications used for the treatment of anxiety disorders and depression during pregnancy.  An increased risk for neonatal discontinuation and prenatal SSRI exposure has been shown in some studies.  The objective of a study done by the Department of Pediatrics, Centre for Community Child Health Research, University of British Columbia, titled “Pharmacologic Factors Associated With Transient Neonatal Symptoms Following Prenatal Psychotropic Medication Exposure”, was to understand the relationships between neonatal outcomes and medication levels given to a mother during pregnancy.  The study compared newborn behavior in children exposed to SSRIs alone, or SSRIs combined with clonazepam, in the second and third trimester, from June 1996 through June 2000.  These groups were compared to newborns not exposed to SSRIs.  Author Oberlander, TF., from the above study states “Infants were assessed in the newborn period for signs suggestive of a “discontinuation syndrome.” Maternal drug levels were measured during the pregnancy and at delivery. Infant drug levels from cord blood and at day 2 of life were also obtained.”

Thirty percent of infants exposed to the SSRIs showed signs of transient poor neonatal adaptation and 9 percent of the control infants showed the same signs.  Symptoms were self limited and not necessarily associated with other neonatal conditions.  Symptomatic infants had a significantly higher maternal dose of clonazepman during pregnancy and at delivery.

Oberlander concludes by stating that “While transient neonatal symptoms were found in infants after single-agent prenatal exposure to SSRIs and when paroxetine was combined with clonazepam, the addition of clonazepam appeared to alter paroxetine metabolism, leading to increased drug levels and risk for transient neonatal symptoms.”  There is a need for further studies with larger samples of infants in order to determine the connections between clonazepam and other SSRIs and the risks for major malformations.

If you or a loved one used SSRIS during pregnancy and your child was born with a congenital malformation, you may be entitled to significant compensation by means of an SSRI birth defect lawsuit.  Studies like this one can be used to demonstrate that SSRI drug manufacturers knew or should have known the risks posed by the use of their products, and since many warning labels were not updated in light of the publication of studies such as the one described above, SSRI companies can be held liable for undue injuries to users of their products.

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Our SSRI Birth Defects Lawsuit Information page is a great place to start if you have any questions about SSRIs and Birth Defects.