Taking the antidepressant Cymbalta during pregnancy may result in an increased risk of postpartum hemorrhage for the expectant mother and may also increase the risk of cardiac malformations for the unborn baby, a new study finds. Antidepressants are some of the most widely prescribed medications in the United States and many pregnant women struggling with depression take antidepressant drugs like Cymbalta, unaware that they can pose a serious risk for themselves and their unborn baby. If you took an antidepressant like Cymbalta while pregnant and your child was born with a cardiac malformation or another severe birth defect, consult an experienced birth defect attorney today to discuss your legal options. You may be entitled to financial compensation for your baby’s injuries and medical expenses, which you can pursue by filing a legal claim against the drug manufacturing company.
Major depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States, affecting an estimated 17.3 million adults. Studies show that pregnant women may have a higher risk of depression due to increased stress, chemical changes in the body, physical health changes and other factors. In fact, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists reports that between 14% and 23% of women will experience some symptoms of depression during pregnancy. Unfortunately, what many pregnant women don’t know is that being exposed to certain antidepressant drugs in utero can increase an unborn baby’s risk of a wide range of severe birth defects, including heart malformations. In this Cymbalta study, published in the British Medical Journal on February 19, researchers from Harvard detailed the pregnancy outcomes from a cohort study involving women between the ages of 18 and 55 and their newborn infants, from 2004 to 2013.
In order to evaluate the risk of adverse maternal and infant outcomes following exposure to the SNRI (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) antidepressant Cymbalta during pregnancy, the researchers examined the pregnancy outcomes of women who took Cymbalta while pregnant and compared them to the pregnancy outcomes of women who took Effexor (venlafaxine), women who took another popular class of antidepressants called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), and women who took Cymbalta before pregnancy but not during pregnancy. The researchers found that women who took Cymbalta while pregnant were more likely to experience severe postpartum hemorrhage, which can lead to death without prompt treatment. They also discovered that babies exposed to Cymbalta in utero had an increased risk of developing a heart malformation.
There are many pharmaceutical drugs that have been tied to an elevated risk of congenital malformations in babies exposed to the drugs in utero, most notably antidepressant drugs. For decades, researchers have examined the potential for some of the best-selling antidepressant drugs in the U.S. to adversely affect a developing fetus. In one study published in 2017, researchers noted that “the effects of treated depression in pregnancy are related to premature birth, decreased body weight of the child, intrauterine growth retardation, neonatal adaptive syndrome, and persistent pulmonary hypertension.” Other birth defects commonly linked to maternal antidepressant use in pregnancy include cleft lip, cleft palate, craniosynostosis, limb defects, neural tube birth defects and anal atresia, among others.
Cymbalta (duloxetine) is a prescription antidepressant drug that belongs to the SNRI class of antidepressants. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2004 and it works by increasing the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin and norepinephrine, which help regulate mood and may also block pain signals traveling through the brain. In addition to depression, Cymbalta is also approved to treat generalized anxiety disorder, fibromyalgia, chronic musculoskeletal pain and neuropathic pain associated with diabetic peripheral neuropathy, conditions that often occur in women of childbearing age. Treating these conditions with pharmaceutical drugs like Cymbalta is common, given the risks associated with untreated maternal depression, pain and anxiety.
Only when they have all the available information about the potential side effects of their medications can patients make educated decisions about which drugs are safe for them to take and which ones carry too high a risk. This is especially important for pregnant women and women of childbearing age, for whom the harmful side effects of pharmaceutical drugs can result in devastating pregnancy outcomes. According to the researchers involved in this new study, the potential for Cymbalta use in pregnancy to increase the risk of cardiac malformations and postpartum hemorrhage “must be weighed against the benefits of treating depression and pain during pregnancy in a given patient.” If you believe you have been adversely affected by side effects of Cymbalta use in pregnancy, contact a knowledgeable Cymbalta birth defect attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.