Did you know that spina bifida and other serious spinal cord birth defects may be caused by antidepressant or epilepsy drugs? Sadly, a growing number of mothers who took certain prescription drugs during pregnancy have given birth to babies with spina bifida, a rare congenital abnormality in which the infant’s backbone and spinal canal fail to close before birth. Medications linked to spina bifida include antidepressants such as Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft, as well as seizure drugs such as Depakote and Depakene.

Spina Bifida Lawsuit Review: If you or somebody you know has a child who has been diagnosed with spina bifida 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 spina bifida?

Major affective disorders such as depression and anxiety commonly occur in women of childbearing age, and their incidence can increase markedly during and after pregnancy. There is a significant demand for treatment of these disorders, but the balance between treating affective disorders without harming the developing fetus is a troubling issue. Currently, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the drugs of choice for the treatment of these disorders in pregnant women because of their documented efficacy. However, since September 2005, information has been emerging that SSRIs may cause spina bifida and other heart, lung, neural-tube and abdominal wall defects. Our firm is currently investigating whether or not the following antidepressants cause spina bifida:

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

Additionally, the following anti-epileptic medications have been linked to birth defects like spina bifida:

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

Spina Bifida Overview

Spina bifida is a catastrophic birth defect involving the spinal column. The condition begins during an infant’s early development in the womb, when the tissues that fold to form the neural tube do not close or do not stay closed completely. This causes an opening in the vertebrae, which surround and protect the spinal cord. The precursors to spina bifida are set in motion during the first trimester of pregnancy, a time when many women may still be unaware they are pregnant. The condition progresses from a cleft in the back part of the backbones, and in severe cases, involves the spinal cord. Spina bifida is the most common of a group of congenital abnormalities known as neural tube defects, which affect the central nervous system (CNS).

The medical literature describes three separate and distinct varieties of spina bifida:

Spina Bifida Occulta: The mildest form of spina bifida, spina bifida occulta is estimated to affect 10 to 20% of the population, the majority of whom are unaware that they carry the condition. There may be no outward signs of any defects in the spinal column until an x-ray is carried out for some other reason, because spina bifida occulta does not cause any problems to the CNS. Although in the vast majority of cases there will be no outward signs or symptoms, there can be a few warning signs that the defect is present, including:

  • hairy patches on the skin
  • dark spots or birth marks
  • red or purple spots on the back composed of blood vessels
  • dimpling in the back
  • an area that has less skin color than other areas

In more serious cases of spina bifida occulta, there can be a number of symptoms which can affect quality of life. These can include:

  • numbness or loss of sensation in the legs
  • weakness or mild pain in the lower half of the body
  • changes in bowel or bladder function

Meningocele (MM): A more moderate form of spina bifida, meningocele is characterized by an out-pouching of the covering of the spinal cord that results in a defect in the bone and soft-tissue coverings of the back part of the spine. This sac filled with cerebrospinal fluid can lead to a bulging mass on the back.

The meninges are the coverings of the brain and spinal cord, consisting of three layers: the dura mater, the arachnoid membrane and the pia mater. MM is due to the abnormal development of the outward most coverings of the spinal cord and the bony and soft tissue parts of the spine. Outwardly recognizable signs and symptoms of antidepressant-induced meningocele may include:

  • a bulging sac on the lower back of the infant
  • deformity of the spine
  • leakage of cerebrospinal fluid
  • bacterial infections such as meningitis

Spina Bifida Cystica (myelomeningocele): The most common form of spina bifida, myelomeningocele is a neural tube defect in which the bones of the spine do not completely form, resulting in an incomplete spinal canal. This causes the spinal cord and meninges to stick out of the child’s back. Myelomeningocele is estimated to occur in as many as one out of every 800 infants. Symptoms may include:

  • sac sticking out of the mid to lower back
  • loss of bowel or bladder control
  • partial or complete lack of sensation
  • partial or complete paralysis of the legs
  • weakness of the hips, legs, or feet
  • abnormal feet or legs, such as clubfoot
  • buildup of fluid inside the skull (hydrocephalus)
  • hair at the back part of the pelvis (sacral area)
  • dimpling of the sacral area

Outlook & Treatment for Spina Bifida

Depending on the severity of the defect, there are several options available for the treatment of spina bifida:

  • Surgery – Involves putting the meninges back in place and closing the opening in the vertebrae. Performing surgery for spina bifida early (usually within 24 to 48 hours after birth) can help minimize the risk of infection that comes with exposed nerves and may also help protect the spinal column and exposed tissue inside the baby’s body.
  • Prenatal Surgery – In this procedure, which typically takes place before the third trimester of pregnancy, surgeons open the pregnant woman’s uterus and repair the baby’s spinal cord. Advocates of this procedure believe that nerve function in babies with spina bifida worsen rapidly after birth, so it may be better to repair the defect when the baby is still in utero. Prenatal surgery is still a relatively new technique, but most children who receive the procedure need fewer shunts, and are less likely to need crutches or other walking devices.
  • Ongoing Care – Treatment for spina bifida doesn’t end with surgery. Most babies born with the defect have irreparable nerve damage, and ongoing care from a multidisciplinary team of physicians is needed. Paralysis and bladder control problems often persist, and treatment for these conditions typically begins soon after birth.

Is there a time limit in filing a spina bifida lawsuit?

Although we encourage all our potential clients to take great care in selecting their spina bifida 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 spina bifida lawsuit and look forward to speaking with you.


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