When Antidepressants Have a Serious Impact on Your Child

West Virginia medical malpractice lawyers investigate connection between autism and antidepressant therapy during pregnancy

Sound medical practice requires careful weighing of the benefits of a particular treatment against its risks and discussing both in full with the patient. This is especially true when the patient is pregnant, as an unfortunate history of drug-related birth defects attests. Most recently, some studies have provided information for doctors to consider when prescribing antidepressant therapy for pregnant women. This information suggests a statistical relationship between some antidepressants used during pregnancy and an increased risk of autism in the newborn.

Paulson & Nace, PLLC, is a family-owned and managed law firm with more than forty years of experience protecting the rights and interests of birth injury victims throughout West Virginia. We are particularly mindful of the complications of pregnancy and – in these days of consumer-oriented drug advertising – the relative risks and benefits of certain pharmaceuticals. If you or your child has been harmed due to prescribed anti-depressant use in pregnancy, you are not to blame. Let an experienced West Virginia birth injury lawyer at Paulson & Nace fight for you.

What are autism spectrum disorders (or ASD)?

ASD includes several neurodevelopment disorders characterized by social impairment, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, stereotyped patterns of behavior. These disorders range in severity and exist on a continuum. Autistic disorder, sometimes called “autism” or “classical ASD,” is the most severe form of ASD. Other conditions along the spectrum include a milder form known as Asperger syndrome. ASD occurs in all ethnic and socioeconomic groups and affects every age group.  The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1 out of 88 children eight years of age will have ASD. Also, ASD occurs in males far more frequently than in females.

What causes ASD?

Scientists are not certain. Some studies have found that people with ASD have abnormal levels of serotonin or other neurotransmitters in the brain, and that ASD could result from the disruption of normal brain chemistry early in fetal development. Interestingly, the increased occurrence of ASD in recent years coincides with the increased use of a class of antidepressant drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These drugs work by slowing the reabsorption by the brain of one particular neurotransmitter, serotonin, resulting in improved communication between brain cells and reduced feelings of depression. Whether serotonin that is retained in the maternal bloodstream because of SSRI use (and then makes its way to the fetus via the placenta) can cause autism is uncertain. SSRIs remain the most commonly prescribed antidepressant drugs in the United States. A cause-and-effect relationship between their use by pregnant women and the appearance of ASD in the newborn, however, has yet to be shown.


What are some common signs of autism?

Impaired social interaction is a major indication of ASD. Starting in infancy, children with ASD struggle with attention difficulties and eye contact.  Children with an ASD may fail to respond to their names and have difficulty interpreting what others are thinking or feeling. This is because social cues, such as tone of voice or facial expressions, are not something a child with ASD will pick up on. They do not watch other people’s faces for clues about appropriate behavior. Many children with an ASD engage in repetitive movements such as rocking and twirling, or in self-abusive behavior such as biting or head banging.

Your counsel when prescribed drugs have harmful effects

Every SSRI drug label carries more or less the same warning about use during pregnancy, whether during the first trimester or the third. When treating a pregnant woman with an SSRI antidepressant, a doctor must be especially careful. He or she must ensure the patient understands the potential benefits and risks of treatment and gives informed consent. If you or a loved one was harmed by a prescription drug whose risks were not disclosed to you, you should seek qualified legal counsel immediately.

Our West Virginia lawyers help clients affected by autism caused by antidepressants

Paulson & Nace, PLLC’s, family of medical malpractice attorneys offers the compassionate, personal, and professional attention you deserve.  We are widely recognized throughout West Virginia for our comprehensive legal services to families and our aggressive advocacy for birth injury victims. When you choose a birth trauma attorney from our practice to represent you, you are choosing a team that values family. Please call 304-741-8079 or fill out our contact form to tell us your story in a no-obligation consultation. Our office is located at 3501 Maccorkle Ave SE, Charleston, WV 25304.

We have dedicated our lives to helping birth injury victims. Let our family help yours.