SNRI Safety Concerns for Pregnancies

SNRI Safety Concerns for Pregnancies | Pintas & Mullins Law Firm

Antidepressant lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm remind women either thinking about or recently discovering she is pregnant to consider the safest route if antidepressants – such as SNRIs, SSDIs, or SSRIs – are involved. Among the drugs that are generally okay to take during pregnancy include Celexa, Prozac, and Zoloft.

SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) are a newer class of antidepressants, closely related to SSRIs, which for many years have been associated with birth defects in children born to mothers who took them during pregnancy. These medications are used to treat major depressions, which in itself is a dangerous risk factor in pregnancies.

This is why speaking with your doctor or mental health provider about the possible dangers of taking antidepressants while pregnant or breastfeeding is critical. Women should neither stop nor continue taking these medications without first consulting your health care provider.

Antidepressants may also interfere with other medications or dietary supplements you are taking, potentially causing dangerous reactions. For example, the use of aspirin, NSAIDs, or anticoagulants (like warfarin or Coumadin) while taking an SNRI may increase the risk of bleeding.

Antidepressants such as Duloxetine or Venlafaxine come with additional side effects, the former causing liver problems and the latter causing a raise in blood pressure. Patients taking either of these medications are encouraged to have their blood pressure and bloodwork tested periodically to ensure safe levels.

Another rare but possible side effect of SNRIs are dangerously high levels of serotonin, which is known as serotonin syndrome. This most often occurs when two separate medications that raise serotonin are combined, such as other antidepressants and herbal supplements like St. John’s wort. Symptoms of this condition include confusion, rapid or irregular heartbeats, dialated pupils, fever, or unconsciousness.

The problem most newly-pregnant women prescribed to SNRIs face is that, although taking these drugs while pregnant pose risks to your child, stopping them come with immediate risks for you. According to the Mayo Clinic, the hormones released during pregnancy were once believed to help women fight depression, however, researchers now know this is not the case. In fact, pregnancy can trigger a range of emotions that make it more difficult to cope with and combat depression.

Early studies on this issue suggest a risk of limb malformation, specifically with tricyclic antidepressants (such as Pamelor). Research also associates the use of citalopram, sertraline, and fluoxetine with serious infant lung problems, known as persistent pulmonary hypertension, or PPHN, as well as heart defects. Peroxetine (the generic for Paxil) has also been highly associated with fetal heart defects, particularly when taken during the first three months of pregnancy.

Additionally, MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors), such as phenelzine and tranylcypromine (Parnate), are discouraged during pregnancy because they can limit fetal growth and elevate the mother’s blood pressure. Taking antidepressants during pregnancy or in the last trimester may cause the baby to experience jitters or irritability at birth.

As antidepressant use continues to increase among American women, the FDA has remained troublingly quiet on this topic. The agency believes that more conclusive studies need to be conducted before it takes an official stance on the safety of antidepressants during pregnancy.

The effects of SNRIs on infants are real, however, affecting real mothers and children, even causing premature deaths. One study recently published in Birth Defects Research detailed the devastating story of Indiana Delahunty and her mother, Christian.

The mother took the popular SNRI Effexor throughout her pregnancy, unaware of the potential complications and risks to her unborn daughter. When Indiana was born, the attending physician was surprised and concerned to hear Christian was taking SNRIs, and immediately notified the neonatal intensive care unit to expect an “Effexor baby.” 

Indiana was born largely unable to breathe, and had ongoing issues with her respiratory system during her short life. At just a few weeks old, Christian found Indiana unable to breathe and rushed her to the hospital, however, she was not able to be revived.

Mothers throughout the country have experienced similar tragic stories, and are consequently filing lawsuits against SNRI, SSRI, and SSDI manufacturers. Antidepressant birth defect lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have decades of experience advocating on behalf of families of children born with malformations due to pharmaceutical use, and offer free, no-obligation consultations nationwide.