Gastroschisis is a severe congenital birth defect that occurs when a newborn baby’s intestines protrude through a break in the abdominal wall. As a result, the infant’s organs are left unprotected from the outside world and highly vulnerable to damage. Though the exact cause of gastroschisis is still not fully understood, mounting research and numerous case studies have linked this catastrophic defect to the maternal use of antidepressant medications when taken by expecting mothers during pregnancy.

Gastroschisis Suit Review: If you or somebody you know has a child who was born with gastroschisis after being exposed to an antidepressant drug in the womb, you should contact our lawyers immediately. Consultations are always free. Please use our confidential email contact form or call toll free 24 hrs/day by dialing (866) 588-0600.

Which antidepressants have been linked to gastroschisis?

According to two recent independent studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), babies born to mothers taking commonly prescribed antidepressants during their first trimester of pregnancy – a time when many women may still be unaware they are pregnant – have an increased risk of serious birth defects. The studies found a higher risk of developmental problems affecting the intestines, brain and skull. One such birth defect, gastroschisis, is so rare that occurs in less than 1 in 5,000 live births in the United States. The following antidepressants have been linked to the development of gastroschisis and other serious birth defects when taken by pregnant women:

  • Paxil (paroxetine)
  • Zoloft (sertraline)
  • Celexa (citalopram)
  • Prozac (fluoxetine)
  • Lexapro (escitalopram)
  • Symbyax (fluoxetine and olanzapine)
  • Wellbutrin (bupropion)
  • Effexor (venlafaxine)

Gastroschisis Overview

Gastroschisis is a rare congenital abnormality that occurs when a newborn’s intestines protrude through a hole on one side of the umbilical cord. The defect typically occurs during the fourth week after conception. The opening is usually on the right side of the belly button, and is usually less than two inches in length.

Gastroschisis is classified as a hernia (rupture), and is similar in appearance to an omphalocele. An omphalocele, however, is characterized by the intestines or abdominal organs protruding through the belly button area itself covered in a membrane. In gastroschisis, there is no membranous sac covering the organs, and the intestines may be swollen and look shortened due to exposure to amniotic fluid.

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of antidepressant-induced gastroschisis include:

  • Lump in the abdomen
  • Intestine sticks through the abdominal wall near the umbilical cord


Gastroschisis is often initially detected when the so-called ‘triple screen’ alpha feto protein (AFP) blood work is elevated. The diagnosis can then be confirmed with an ultrasound procedure. In the ultrasound, the bowel and perhaps the liver will be seen floating outside the baby’s body in amniotic fluid. Your obstetrician will most likely refer you to a perinatologist that handles high-risk pregnancies.

In order to determine the severity of a particular case of gastroschisis, it is important to gather information from a variety of tests to determine if there are any additional problems. These tests are crucial to make the best decisions about the proper treatment of gastroschisis. Factors to take into consideration:

  1. The type of defect – distinguishing it from other similar appearing problems
  2. The severity of the defect – is the fetus’s defect mild or severe?
  3. Associated defects – is there another problem or cluster of problems (syndrome)?

Once a conclusive diagnosis has been made, it is important to plan for delivery at a tertiary center with good neonatology and pediatric surgery for management and repair after birth. While it was originally thought that infants with gastroschisis would have to be born Cesarian section, this is not the case and most babies can be delivered vaginally. Good communication between perinatology and neonatology is crucial because many of the babies are born slightly premature.

How is Gastroschisis Treated?

In cases where the defect is relatively minor, gastroschisis may be completely repaired with just one surgery. During the procedure, the intestines are placed back in the belly and the defect is closed.

In more severe cases where the bowel or organs are protruding, several surgeries may be required. The entire procedure may take up to 10 days, or possibly even longer. A plastic pouch called a silo is placed around the bowel and attached to the belly. Each day, the silo is gently tightened down and some of the bowel is pushed inside. When all of the bowel and intestines are inside, the silo is removed and the hole is closed. Some babies may require the help of a ventilator for a few days after the procedure.

If treatment for gastroschisis is successful, the long-term outlook is generally very favorable. Recovery time in the hospital involves feeding your baby through an IV. In a small number of cases, the baby will develop a condition known as ‘short gut,’ which is characterized by diarrhea, very slow weight gain, and deficiencies of important vitamins and minerals. If this is the case, your baby may require longer courses of IV treatment.

Is there a time limit in filing a Gastroschisis lawsuit?

Although we encourage all our potential clients to take great care in selecting their gastroschisis lawyer, it is important that you understand that time is of the essence. The applicable statute of limitations in your state may time bar your claim. Furthermore, we are unable to provide you with legal advice without first evaluating your potential case. Accordingly, please take the time now to contact us by using the confidential email contact form below or by calling us toll free 24 hrs/day by dialing (866) 588-0600.

We hope we will be able to assist you with your potential antidepressant-induced gastroschisis birth defects lawsuit and look forward to speaking with you.

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