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Birth Defects Glossary

Abdominal Birth Defects / Omphalocele: According to data obtained from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study of infants, women who took an SSRI-antidepressant were more likely than those who were not exposed to have an infant with omphalocele (an abnormality in newborns in which the infant’s intestine or other abdominal organs protrude from the navel).​

Anal Atresia: Also called Imperforate anus, anal atresia is a congenital malformation in which the normal perforation we call the anus, is absent. The end of the intestinal tract has not perforated the skin in the perineal area. Atresia is the absence of a normal opening or failure of a structure to be tubular. We are investigating whether or not there is an association between SSRIs and anal atresia.

Autism Spectrum Disorders: ASD, generally known as autism, are a group of complex developmental brain conditions characterized by impaired social interaction. Other signs of autism include delayed communication skills, lack of empathy and obsessive interests. Recent research has linked the use of SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy with an increased risk of autism in children.

Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate: These are Craniofacial birth defects that affect the upper lip (cleft lip) and the roof of the mouth (cleft palate). The defect ranges from a small opening in the upper lip to a large gap that runs into the roof of the mouth and nose. The deformity can affect eating, talking and can lead to severe ear infections. Research has linked the use of antidepressants to certain birth defects.

Clubfoot: Recent university studies have found that some women who took SSRIs throughout their pregnancy had children born with club feet. True Clubfoot is a malformation. The bones, joints, muscles, and blood vessels of the limb are abnormal. An infant with club foot has a foot that is inturned, stiff and cannot be brought to a normal position.

Cranial Birth Defects: The authors of National Birth Defects Prevention Study of infants also found an association of exposure to any SSRI-antidepressant and giving birth to an infant with craniosynostosis (a congenital defect present at birth. The connections between sutures-skull bones, prematurely close during the first year of life, which causes an abnormally shaped skull.)

Heart Defects: Studies show that taking antidepressants during pregnancy may increase the risk of having a child with a cardiac birth defect such as coarctation of the aorta, heart valve abnormalities, hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), atrial septal defect (ASD), ventricular septal defect (VSD), tetralogy of Fallot (TOF), transposition of the great arteries.

Limb Defects: Most people are familiar with limb reductions being associated with expectant mothers taking thalidomide in the 1960s. There may also be a link between babies born to mothers who took certain antidepressants during pregnancy and babies being born with limb reduction defects. According to a 2007 New England Journal of Medicine study, this association “warrants further exploration.”

Neural Tube Defects (NTDs): A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found a connection between the prenatal use of certain antidepressants and Neural Tube Defects, or NTDs. NTDs are congenital defects of the brain and spinal cord that occur very early in fetal development. NTDs include spina bifida and anencephaly.

PPHN: Persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) is a serious and life-threatening lung condition that occurs soon after birth of the newborn. Babies with PPHN have high pressure in their lung blood vessels and are not able to get enough oxygen into their bloodstream. About one to two babies per 1000 babies born in the U.S. develop PPHN shortly after birth, and often they need intensive medical care.

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