Many Birth Defects Are Preventable Injuries Caused By Malpractice Or Medications

Over the past fifty years, our lawyers, doctors and nurses have helped thousands of parents come to understand how their children developed severe mental disabilities or physical injuries. Frequently, when a baby is born with a birth defect like a cleft palate or is diagnosed as a child with cerebral palsy, the parents will be told by their doctors that the condition was genetic, was the result of an unavoidable complication during the pregnancy, or is simply impossible to explain. In our experience, however, many of these "birth defects" are actually the result of an injury, such as the baby being exposed to chemicals (like certain psychiatric medications) or the baby being injured in the labor and delivery process by oxygen deprivation or an improper delivery technique.

Many parents are aware of the severe dangers that toxins like mercury and lead can pose to a developing baby, but recent research shows that a number of prescription medications, too, can cause severe harm to fetal development. For example, medical studies have shown that the antidepressants referred to as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such asZoloft andProzac, dramatically increase the risk of serious complications for babies such as persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns, spina bifida, and defects of the heart, lungs, brain, and abdomen. Lexapro, too, has been linked to spina bifida and birth defects of the mouth such as cleft palate. In those situations, although the condition truly is a "birth defect," the birth defect was avoidable, but the manufacturers of these medications failed to warn mothers and their physicians about the risks, and so may be legally responsible for negligence. The anti-seizure drug Topamax has also been linked to birth defects. Most pregnant women and women who could become pregnant, however, are not aware of the risks.

In other situations, "birth defects" like cerebral palsy and Erb's palsy are not "defects" at all, but are the result of injuries the baby sustained during the birthing process. Many cases of cerebral palsy are unavoidable, but a large portion are the result of the infant going into fetal distress - perhaps the result of a lack of blood to the baby caused by placental abruption or other conditions restricting oxygen - and yet the physicians, nurses and midwives delivering the child failed to recognize the danger. Erb's palsy, in turn, is typically the result of an obstetrician improperly treating shoulder dystocia by applying too much force or applying force in the wrong direction, thereby damaging the nerves in the baby's shoulder. As we have discussed before on this blog, many doctors try to avoid responsibility for Erb's palsy by claiming the condition can be caused by the natural forces of birth, but courts have finally started refusing those sorts of excuses that lack a solid medical and scientific basis.

If your child was diagnosed with a birth defect after you took an antidepressant during pregnancy, or if you were told that brain damage or nerve damage was a "birth defect," use this form to contact our pharmaceutical negligence and medical malpractice lawyers for a free, confidential consultation and review of your medical history during pregnancy. You and your child may be entitled to compensation for a drug company's negligence or for malpractice by the doctors who delivered your child.


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