A Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, or SSRI, is a compound that is prescribed for depression, anxiety disorders and a few personality problems. Many doctors are now expressing skepticism about the efficacy of these drugs for the treatment of mental disturbances, but for pregnant women, this is not the major concern. Some recent studies show an increased risk of major complications for their unborn children.

An SSRI works by blocking serotonin from being taken up by synapses in the nervous system. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that acts like a Swiss Army knife in the body, but one of its functions is mood regulation. Doctors believe that its presence helps encourage feelings of well-being, though recent research is starting to question just how effective saturating the extracellular area with this neurotransmitter is for mild or moderate cases.

This drug is known by many names, including Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro, Seropram, Cipramil, Prozac and Seronil. These are only a handful of names given to an SSRI, and there are several dozen altogether.

The Food and Drug Administration’s concern stems from a study pointing out the increased risk of birth defects associated with the usage of these drugs during pregnancy. The study shows that SSRI usage increases the chance that the baby will develop persistent pulmonary hypertension by six times. The study was most conclusive for women who were taking the drug after 20 weeks of pregnancy. In addition, the chances of miscarriage, behavior disorders in the child, spontaneous abortion and other defects are all magnified with regular doses of the medication.

Persistent pulmonary hypertension, or PPHN, is a severe lung disorder that can be fatal to newborns. Children born with PPHN have elevated blood pressure in their lungs, which makes it exceedingly difficult for the children to absorb oxygen into the bloodstream. Quick and intensive treatment is needed to ensure survival, and even then, it isn’t guaranteed. Even with quick action, a newborn with PPHN may still be starved of oxygen from the lungs, possibly resulting in heart failure, brain damage or hemorrhaging, shock, kidney or multiple organ failure or seizures.

While some cases of PPHN can be reversed or treated, not all can be. In particularly insidious cases, the lungs may be too malformed to support the child, and long-term survivability may not be possible. For those that do survive the disorder, one in five will experience long term symptoms and complications that can significantly impact the child. Hearing loss, ongoing breathing problems and speech issues have all been tracked in survivors of PPHN.

Any woman who has taken an SSRI while pregnant and had a child with PPHN or any other birth defect should contact a drug injury lawyer right away and determine their options for recompense. Complications associated with this medication can cause the death or long-term impairment of the child, and an expert in this area can help determine whether or not a claim should be made based on the situation. Mass tort, which is when a party injures many individuals with a single act of negligence or wrongdoing, can be overwhelming for a client struggling with extensive pain and suffering. A trusted personal injury attorney will fight for the victim and make sure that he or she is heard.