Zoloft and Neural Tube Birth Defects

Neural tube birth defects may be associated with side effects of Zoloft use during pregnancy and attorneys are filing Zoloft lawsuits in the US to extract compensation for injuries.

Recent studies have identified Zoloft use during pregnancy as a potential risk factor for the development of severe side effects in exposed children, particularly neural tube birth defects. Zoloft belongs to a class of antidepressant medications called SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which work by restoring the balance of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. Zoloft is currently manufactured by pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, Inc., and has been available in the U.S. since 1991. Since its introduction, Zoloft (sertraline) has been approved to treat major depressive disorder, social anxiety disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, and severe cases of obsessive-compulsive disorder. As of 2007, Zoloft was the most commonly prescribed antidepressant drug on the market. Unfortunately, recent research has indicated that Zoloft may not be safe in treating women of childbearing age. If you took Zoloft while pregnant and your child was born with a side effect like a neural tube birth defect, contact a Zoloft attorney for legal guidance.

Neural Tube Birth Defect Symptoms

A neural tube defect is a type of congenital malformation in which a child's neural tube fails to close completely during fetal development. The neural tube is the precursor to the central nervous system, which is comprised of the brain and spinal cord. If the cells of the neural tube fail to fuse together properly as the child is developing in utero, a neural tube defect may occur. Neural tube birth defects are relatively common, affecting about one in 1,000 infants. Unfortunately, the side effects associated with neural tube birth defects are often devastating, and may even be fatal.

Spina Bifida

Spina bifida is one of the most common and debilitating types of neural tube birth defects. Spina bifida occurs when the vertebrae protecting the spinal cord fail to fuse together during fetal development, leaving an opening in the spinal column through which the spinal cord may actually protrude. Common symptoms of spina bifida include:

  • Difficulty with bladder and bowel control
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Coordination problems
  • Learning difficulties

In some cases, children born with spina bifida may suffer from more severe side effects, including permanent paralysis, hydrocephalus (a build-up of fluid in the brain), and sometimes even death.


One of the most severe forms of neural tube birth defects is a fatal condition called anencephaly. Children with anencephaly are missing large portions of the brain, skull and scalp, and are born unconscious, deaf, blind, and unable to feel pain. Because newborns with anencephaly are born without a functioning cerebrum, there is no hope of them every regaining consciousness. There is currently no treatment for anencephaly, and babies born with this birth defect rarely survive more than a few days after birth.

FDA Warnings and Zoloft Side Effect Studies

In 2006, the FDA issued a public health advisory warning patients and healthcare providers about the increased risk of PPHN among children whose mothers take SSRI drugs like Zoloft during pregnancy. This FDA warning was based on the results of a New England Journal of Medicine study in which researchers found a six-times increased risk of the heart and lung defect PPHN in infants exposed to Zoloft or other SSRI antidepressants in utero. The following year, the NEJM published two additional studies in which researchers sought the examine the adverse effects of fetal exposure to SSRI medications like Zoloft. According to the first study, women who took an SSRI like Zoloft in early pregnancy were nearly twice as likely to give birth to children with anal atresia, limb defects and club foot. Researchers also found a potential connection between SSRIs and neural tube birth defects, cleft palate and cleft lip. The second study indicated that children exposed to Zoloft or other SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy were more than twice as likely to be born with devastating side effects like anencephaly, omphalocele and craniosynostosis.

Zoloft Use and Pregnancy

Zoloft has been classified by the FDA as a pregnancy category C medication, which means it may cause serious harm to a fetus when taken during pregnancy. If you are currently taking Zoloft and you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, consult your physician immediately. It may be dangerous to suddenly discontinue use of a prescription drug without medical consent, as this may cause further harm to you or your child. However, with the help of your doctor, you may be able to find a safer alternative to Zoloft for treating your medical condition.

Zoloft Attorneys for Neural Tube Birth Defects

Neural tube birth defects are some of the most devastating side effects potentially linked to SSRI antidepressant drugs like Zoloft. If you or a loved one has suffered from a neural tube birth defect and you believe Zoloft to be the cause, contact a Zoloft attorney to discuss the benefits of filing a Zoloft lawsuit against Pfizer. The main goal of Zoloft attorneys is to help victims of potential Zoloft side effects seek financial compensation for their injuries, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. Drug companies like Pfizer are expected to produce and distribute safe medications, and should be held liable for any adverse side effects sustained by consumers of their products. Unfortunately, some pharmaceutical companies intentionally conceal the more serious side effects of their products, in an attempt to make their product more appealing to the public. By hiring a Zoloft lawyer to represent your case, you can protect your rights and hold the allegedly negligent drug company accountable for your injuries.

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