The maternal use of prescription drugs during pregnancy can interfere with normal fetal development and lead to growth retardation, a condition characterized by an abnormally slow rate of fetal growth compared to what is considered average during gestation. Growth retardation can have catastrophic long-term side effects including slow cognitive development, neurological damage, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. At Schmidt & Clark, LLP, we believe that pharmaceutical companies need to be held accountable for damages experienced as a result of using their products.

Growth Retardation Lawsuit Review: If you or somebody you know has a child who has been diagnosed with growth retardation after being exposed to a prescription medication 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 drugs have been linked to growth retardation?

For decades, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medications have been prescribed to millions of Americans to treat the symptoms of depression and other serious psychological conditions. Unfortunately, several studies have linked maternal SSRI consumption during pregnancy to a number of severe birth defects including intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR), a condition that can have lifelong repercussions for the child. Antidepressant drugs linked to IUGR include:

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

In addition to these antidepressants, the following epilepsy medications have been associated with growth retardation in babies born to mothers who took the drugs during pregnancy:

  • Depakote (Divalproex Sodium)
  • Depakote CP
  • Depakote ER
  • Depakene (valproic acid)
  • Depacon (valproate sodium injection)
  • Dilantin (phenytoin)

How is growth retardation defined?

Birth weight is generally a very good indicator of a newborn’s chances for survival, growth, long-term health and psychosocial development. A low birth weight (typically characterized as less than 2,500 grams) raises red flags for grave potential health risks for children. Babies who are undernourished in the womb face a significantly increased risk of dying during their early months and years. Those who do survive childhood have impaired immune function and an increased risk of disease – they are likely to suffer from greatly reduced muscle strength, as well as a higher incidence of diabetes and heart disease. Children born underweight also tend to have cognitive disabilities and lower IQs, affecting their performance in school and their future job opportunities as adults.

Intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR), which is also commonly referred to as intrauterine growth restriction, is a condition in which the fetus is unable to achieve its genetically predetermined size and weight. Babies are diagnosed with IUGR if they appear to be smaller than expected – specifically, if an ultrasound indicates that their weight is below the 10th percentile for their gestational age.

Normal fetal development occurs in three major stages:

  • Stage One: Lasting from pregnancy weeks four through 20, this stage is marked by rapid cell development and multiplication.
  • Stage Two: Spanning weeks 20-28, this stage involves cells growing in size at a rapid rate.
  • Stage Three: Between weeks 28-40, this stage involves the development of fat, muscle, and connective tissue, as well as continuing cell growth.

Depending on the stage affected, IUGR will be classified into one of two separate and distinct categories:

  • Symmetric or Primary IUGR – Characterized by all internal organs being reduced in size. Symmetric IUGR accounts for approximately 20-25% of all reported cases of IUGR.
  • Asymmetric or Secondary IUGR – Characterized by the head and brain being normal in size, but the abdomen being smaller. Asymmetric IUGR is not typically identifiable until some time in the third trimester.

Signs & Symptoms of Intrauterine Growth Retardation

Babies born with IUGR are more likely to have certain health issues both during pregnancy and after birth. Problems may include:

  • a difficult time handling the stress of vaginal delivery
  • increased risk of being stillborn
  • low blood sugar level at birth
  • lower resistance to infection
  • trouble maintaining body temperature
  • an abnormally high red blood cell count

How is IUGR Diagnosed?

A physician will assess the size of a woman’s uterus during a pelvic exam during the first trimester of pregnancy. After that, the baby’s growth is checked by measuring the expecting mother’s belly at every prenatal visit. If the measurement is smaller than the due date indicates it should be (this is referred to as ‘small for dates’), the doctor will follow up with an ultrasound to pinpoint the baby’s size and weight.

If the woman is still in the first half of pregnancy and this is her first ultrasound, her uterus may measure small because her due date (based on her last period) is wrong. However, if the ultrasound confirms that the due date is correct, another ultrasound will be scheduled in two weeks to check on the baby’s growth. If the second ultrasound indicates that it’s lagging, the baby may be diagnosed with IUGR.

IUGR Treatment

Despite a variety of new medical breakthroughs, the optimal treatment for intrauterine growth retardation remains problematic. In most cases, the treatment will depend on how far along the woman is in pregnancy. If gestational age is 34 weeks or greater, it may be recommended that the woman be induced for an early delivery. If gestational age is less than 34 weeks, healthcare providers will continue monitoring the baby’s fetal well-being and amount of amniotic fluid during this time. If either becomes a concern, then immediate delivery may be recommended.

Is there a time limit in filing a growth retardation lawsuit?

Although we encourage all our potential clients to take great care in selecting their growth retardation 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 growth retardation birth defects lawsuit and look forward to speaking with you.


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