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One in 10 women will suffer from depression during their pregnancy or the postpartum period. While this statistic is shockingly high, the side effects of medicines given to treat the depression in these women can add even more struggle to their lives. The problem is that many women are confused about the available options to treat their depression, and many times the default is to be prescribed an antidepressant that can have severe side effects on unborn children.

A common class of prescribed antidepressants is known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. Examples of SSRIs include Paxil (paroxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), Prozac (fluoxetine), Effexor (venlafaxne), Celexa (citalopram), Lexapro (escitalopram), Symbyax (fluoxetime and olanzapine), Wellbutrin (bupropion) and Cymbalta (duloxetine). The Mayo Clinic has reported that taking antidepressants during pregnancy may cause health risks to a developing baby, but stopping may pose risks for the mother.

The public is not aware that many of these SSRIs may cause birth defects. To make matters worse, a mother who discovers these potential health risks to her unborn baby cannot simply stop taking the medication without experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms.

There are five drug categories that the FDA has used to described the potential of health risks to an unborn baby. They are A, B, C, D and X, with A being the least dangerous and X being the most dangerous.

Class A drugs have been tested without any adverse effects being found, while studies of Class X drugs have resulted in fetal abnormalities. It is widely thought that the dangers of a class X drug greatly outweigh any benefit. Most SSRIs are class C drugs, which have resulted in fetal abnormalities in animal studies, but there are no reliable results from human studies.

Specifically, Paxil has been shown to result in life-treatening lung problems in newborn babies whose mothers take Paxil during pregnancy. It may feel natural to feel guilty about taking any of these drugs while pregnant, but the problem is that those who manufacture these drugs have not sufficiently studied the drugs or disclosed the risks. The problem is a lack of information.


About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.

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