Depression is an extremely serious and often severely debilitating mental disorder which can affect multiple aspects of an affected individual's life, including personal relationships, social interactions, eating and sleeping habits, and even productivity at work and school. In order to increase the individual's daily functioning and quality of life, many people suffering from depression are prescribed SSRI antidepressants like Lexapro. SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, function by restoring balance to the level of serotonin in the brain, thereby relieving depression and improving other mood disorders. The active ingredient in Lexapro is escitalopram, which has been approved by the FDA for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder in adults and major depressive disorder in adults and children aged twelve and older. Lexapro was originally FDA-approved in 2002 and is currently manufactured by the pharmaceutical company, Forest Laboratories.
Despite the popularity of SSRIs in treating depression, these drugs have come under significant scrutiny in recent years because of the potential connection between SSRI use and Lexapro side effects during pregnancy and major birth defects in infants exposed to the drugs in utero. According to research, infants whose mothers take SSRIs like Lexapro while pregnant may have a significantly increased risk of giving birth to infants with severe congenital malformations, including heart defects, PPHN, craniosynostosis, anal atresia, limb defects, neural tube birth defects, and omphaloceles.
An omphalocele is a congenital birth defect in which the child's intestine or other abdominal organs protrude from the naval. In infants with an omphalocele, the abdominal contents are only covered by a thin layer of tissue and can be easily seen by the naked eye. This type of birth defect develops when the muscles in the abdominal wall fail to close completely during fetal development, causing the intestines to remain outside the umbilical cord. In less severe cases of this condition, only the intestines may protrude from the abdomen, but in instances of larger omphaloceles, the liver and spleen may also be involved. Unfortunately, approximately 25-40% of infants with an omphalocele also suffer from additional birth defects, typically heart defects.
The only treatment for an omphalocele is reconstructive surgery, although the procedure doesn't necessarily have to be performed immediately. Because the layer of tissue temporarily protects the abdominal contents, more serious medical issues accompanying the omphalocele, like heart defects, can be treated first. Surgery involves stitching a man-made material over the defect, allowing the abdominal contents to be pushed back into the abdomen over time. The artificial material is then removed and the abdomen is closed. In instances where the omphalocele is too large for the affected organs to be placed back inside the abdomen, the skin around the defect will eventually grow and cover it. The abdominal muscles and skin can then be repaired when the child is older in order to improve the appearance of the defect.
Children born with an omphalocele typically make a full recovery after surgery. Unfortunately, because this defect is often accompanied by additional birth defects, the ultimate outcome will depend upon the severity of these birth injuries. Infants with an omphalocele also often experience other complications, including intestinal infection and death of the intestinal tissue.
One of the most revealing studies regarding the potential connection between SSRI antidepressant use and major birth defects was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2006. The study involved 377 women who gave birth to infants with persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, or PPHN, and 836 women who gave birth to healthy infants. The report indicated that infants born to women who took an SSRI like Lexapro after the twentieth week of pregnancy were six times more likely to develop PPHN than infants not exposed to the drugs in utero. Researchers determined that up to twelve out of 1,000 infants developed the condition, compared to the average rate of PPHN among the general population, which is one to two infants out of 1,000.
Shortly after this study was released, the FDA issued a public health advisory warning patients and health professionals about the potential connection between the use of SSRI drugs, including Lexapro, during pregnancy and PPHN. In 2007, the New England Journal of Medicine published another study which suggested that infants who are exposed to SSRIs in utero may be twice as likely to develop birth defects like craniosynostosis and omphalocele, compared to unexposed infants.
More recently, in 2010, a study was published in the American Journal of Nursing which sought to observe the effect SSRI antidepressants had on infants exposed to the drugs in utero. The study involved 1,370 infants whose mothers took an SSRI during pregnancy and 493,113 infants whose mothers didn't take any SSRIs while pregnant. According to researchers, the prevalence of heart defects, particularly atrial septal defects and ventricular septal defects, was 0.9% among infants exposed to an SSRI in utero, compared to the prevalence among unexposed infants, which was 0.5%. Furthermore, the rate of heart defects was even higher among infants exposed to more than one SSRI antidepressant in utero.
The FDA has labeled Lexapro a pregnancy category C medication, which means it may cause serious harm to a human fetus when taken during pregnancy. The FDA has also required the sponsors of all SSRI antidepressants to update their drugs' warning labels to include the potential risk of PPHN. If you are currently pregnant or planning to become pregnant and you are taking Lexapro, consult your physician as soon as possible. The FDA has advised healthcare providers to avoid prescribing SSRIs like Lexapro to pregnant women unless the possible benefits of the treatment justify the potential risks to the fetus. It is never advised to discontinue use of a prescription medication without medical consent, but with your doctor's help you may be able to find a safer alternative to Lexapro during pregnancy for treating your medical condition.
If you or a loved one has suffered from an omphalocele which you believe to be related to the use of the SSRI antidepressant, Lexapro, contact a Lexapro attorney immediately to discuss your legal options. You may be entitled to reimbursement for your injuries, medical expenses, and pain and suffering, which you can collect by filing a Lexapro lawsuit. Defective drug lawsuits such as Lexapro class action lawsuits bring much-needed attention to the importance of safe medications and the need for more strict regulations on the potentially dangerous drugs already on the market. Lexapro lawyers are experienced in defective drug litigation and can help potential Lexapro birth defect victims collect the compensation they deserve.
Spread the word so women are aware of the risks for both anticonvulsant birth defects and antidepressant birth defects and so families dealing with the hardship and expenses of lifetime care can get financial help from experienced class action attorneys. Learn more about Side Effects from prescription drugs.
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Attorneys are investigating the possibility that birth defects caused birth defects if the mothers took medication while pregnant. Lawyers are currently reviewing the following drugs; Celexa, Effexor, Lexapro, Paxil, Pristiq, Prozac and Zoloft. Severe effects can be caused during the first trimester of pregnancy. This website has no relationship with any of the aforementioned drugs or pharmaceutical companies. Only your doctor can give you medical advice.