SSRI Antidepressants and Autism: What You Need to Know

For years, the medical community has worried about a connection between antidepressants and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Autism is a neurodevelopment disorder. That means whatever makes an individual autistic occurs while they’re developing in the womb. Medications the mother took before or during her pregnancy can impact the fetus’s development.

Some studies have suggested a link between use of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) during pregnancy and autism or other birth defects. If you believe this may be the case for your child, talk with us at Pierce Skrabanek about your rights. We have decades of experience tackling defective drug claims, and we’ll explain your legal options. Reach out online or call (832) 690-7000 to schedule a consultation.

Pregnant woman in pink shirt holding medication pills and a glass of water

The Possible Link Between SSRIs and Autism

To research the association between antidepressants and autism, scientists use observational studies. These are challenging for many reasons, including all of the different factors that could impact fetal development. These include environmental exposure to pollution, the mother’s habits, and genetics. But observational studies can tell scientists a lot, even if they can’t pinpoint a cause-and-effect relationship.

SSRIs are a type of antidepressant medication. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved many SSRIs to treat depression, including Citalopra (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil), and Sertraline (Zoloft).

Many individuals find an SSRI helps them manage their mental health. But like any medication, there are potential side effects and complications. In recent years, researchers have studied the possible connection between autism and maternal use of SSRIs before or during pregnancy.

Several observational studies in recent decades found there might be a connection between antidepressants and autism. For example, In 2011, a Kaiser Permanente study in California found an association between SSRIs and ASD. In 2014, the California CHARGE Study found an association between SSRIs and ASD in boys.

A 2016 study found women who took antidepressants during their second or third trimesters were associated with an 87% increase of an ASD diagnosis in their children. The researchers analyzed pregnancies in Quebec, Canada, between January 1998 and December 2009. They found the highest risk of ASD was in children exposed to SSRIs only.

More studies are necessary because of the complexity of this issue. While studies may indicate an association between antidepressants and autism, it isn’t a straight line from one to the other. Most likely, many variables contribute to autism. The fact that the mother is depressed while pregnant or has suffered from depression throughout her life may also be a factor in autism. If you’re interested in learning more about this connection and your possible legal rights, contact our lawyers.

Other SSRI Birth Injuries and Side Effects

Researchers are concerned with other possible birth injuries associated with SSRIs, including preterm birth. A birth more than three weeks before an estimated due date can come with many complications for the child, including:

  • Breathing problems,
  • Heart problems like defects and low blood pressure,
  • Blood problems like anemia,
  • Brain problems like hemorrhages,
  • Body temperature problems,
  • Gastrointestinal problems,
  • Metabolism problems like low blood sugar, and
  • A weak immune system.

More severe complications include hearing and vision loss, developmental and cognitive delays, and Cerebral palsy.

A meta-analysis published in 2016 reviewed eight studies and found the number of preterm births, meaning those that took place before 37 weeks, was significantly higher in the group of women who took SSRIs than the control group.

Many researchers are concerned with the link between specific antidepressants and birth injuries, such as Prozac birth defects. A meta-analysis published in 2017 found a mother’s use of Prozac was associated with a slightly higher risk of cardiovascular malformations in the babies.

Another issue is a rare heart and lung condition called persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) linked to SSRIs during pregnancy. PPHN means a newborn infant doesn’t adapt to breathing outside the womb and requires a ventilator. Severe PPHN can cause brain damage, organ damage, and death. However, the FDA stated various studies didn’t provide enough evidence to conclude SSRIs cause PPHN.

What Does the FDA Say About SSRIs?

The FDA says SSRIs are generally safe for pregnant women to use, though the agency provides information on the potential risks. The FDA places many SSRIs into Category C of the FDA Pregnancy Categories. Animal studies have shown adverse effects on fetuses, but there aren’t adequate and well-controlled studies in humans. The potential benefits of Category C drugs may justify pregnant women using them despite the potential risks. However, the FDA places Paxil in Category D, which means there is evidence of risk to fetuses, but the benefits for the mother may still outweigh the risks.

Woman in blue shirt staring pensively out of a window

Compensation for SSRI Birth Injuries

Pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers have a legal responsibility to provide safe, effective products. When they fail to do that and cause you harm, you may have the right to hold them liable through a product liability lawsuit.

During a product liability lawsuit, you provide evidence of a design defect, manufacturing defect, failure to warn, or another form of negligence. Depending on the facts, you may not need to prove negligence. Instead, we may base a lawsuit on strict liability or breach of an express or implied warranty. Please talk with us about your legal options and potential compensation.

Experiencing a birth injury is different than getting hurt in an accident. If your child sustained a birth injury, it could impact the rest of their life. Autism, for example, is not a condition that goes away, and society often stigmatizes individuals with ASD throughout their lives. ASD can overlap with other medical conditions, which means a person may require more medical care throughout their life than the average person.

If you or your child have ASD, the associated costs may include:

  • Cost of medical care and medications for related conditions
  • Costs related to special education and tutors
  • Costs related to speech therapy and adaptive communication tools
  • Pain and suffering due to the stigma and discrimination aimed at individuals with autism

Through an SSRI lawsuit, we’ll fight for the maximum compensation related to these damages. That includes compensation for parents, as they pay for their child’s medical care, mental health care, and education. We also fight for compensation for the child who will experience autism-related challenges throughout their life.

Every SSRI lawsuit is different. It’s essential to work with an attorney experienced in pharmaceutical and medical device lawsuits. We investigate the type of SSRI you took during your pregnancy as well as when you took it. The impact of an SSRI on fetal development can depend on whether you took it during the first, second, or third trimester. Then, we’ll thoroughly document your damages to give us the best chance of winning maximum compensation.

Don’t Immediately Stop Taking Your SSRI

If you’re pregnant and currently taking an SSRI to treat depression, don’t stop taking your medication out of fear. Leaving your depression untreated during pregnancy is also associated with risks to you and the fetus. Talk with your doctor about the potential risks of birth injuries with your current medication. As of right now, the research on the link between SSRIs and autism is not clear or definitive. If there is an increased risk of autism or other birth defects, it remains low.

Ready to Talk with a Lawyer?

If you believe taking an SSRI during your pregnancy caused your child to be born with autism or another birth injury, talk with our lawyers at Pierce Skrabanek. We have years of experience handling birth defects and pharmaceutical lawsuits. We understand how frustrating and heartbreaking these situations can be for your family.

Not only do we have experience going up against major drug companies, but we’ve achieved fair results for our clients. We aren’t afraid to fight major corporations and their teams of lawyers to recover the maximum compensation.

At Pierce Skrabanek, we offer more than knowledge and experience. We believe in caring for our clients like family. We are compassionate and passionate about representing everyday Americans. When it comes to protecting our clients and their rights, we aren’t afraid to play hardball.

Please contact us through our online form or call (832) 690-7000 to schedule your free case evaluation.

We accept cases on a contingency fee, which means you don’t pay us upfront. There’s no retainer or monthly bill. You only pay us our fee if we recover compensation for your family.

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