The Link Between Newborns Born With Heart Defects And SSRI Use

by Terry Bryant

Several studies published in the last decade have demonstrated a link between heart defects in newborn children and SSRI use. Cardiovascular complications can impact a child’s life well beyond birth, as they greatly increase the chances of more severe complications, like cardiac arrest or stroke. Most drugs in this class have demonstrated serious risks in animal fetuses, and they are deemed too unsafe to test in humans. However, doctors still frequently prescribe risky antidepressants to pregnant women, either because they do not agree with the research or are not aware of it. In either case, giving these medications to pregnant women is needlessly reckless.

Two major studies since 2009 have made a clear link between heart defects in newborns and SSRI use. This includes a study in Obstetrics and Gynecology that concluded that some antidepressants used in the first trimester doubled the risk of septal complications and quadrupled the risk of ventricular complications. Septal and ventricular complications affect how the heart pushes blood from chamber to chamber, so any abnormalities make it much harder to circulate blood efficiently and maintain normal blood pressure.

Doctors and drug manufacturers have a responsibility to provide safe health care to patients and consumers. As long as drug makers respond to safety alerts quickly and doctors stay aware of the latest safety findings, the impact on patients can be kept to a minimum. Unfortunately, this is often not the case, and when negligence is present, they must be held legally responsible.