According to the March of Dimes, approximately 150,000 babies are born with birth defects annually in the United States. Other experts state that approximately 3 percent of all newborns have a major birth defect. The definition of birth defects is an abnormality of function, structure, or metabolism that is present at birth. Birth defects, the leading cause of death in newborns, can range from minor to serious. Over 4,000 types of birth defects are known, though some are more common than others. Birth defects often lead to mental or physical disabilities and are sometimes even fatal.
While birth defects can be caused by genetic factors, environmental hazards—such as drugs and toxins—can also have a teratogenic effect. A teratogen is any substance to which a pregnant female is exposed that may cause physical defects in the developing embryo or fetus and result in a birth defect. If a woman is exposed to teratogens during pregnancy due to the negligence or wrongdoing of another party, that party can be held liable for the losses and suffering that ensues for both the mother and the child.
To learn more about your legal rights, please contact the qualified birth defect attorneys at Injury Lawyer Omaha today for a free and confidential consultation. Read on to learn more about prescription drugs and environmental toxins that can cause birth defects.
Prescription Drugs and Birth Defects
About 90 percent of all pregnant women use prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs at some point during their pregnancy. While many of these are safe to use when expecting, many types of drugs pose the threat of birth defects and should not be used by pregnant women. Doctors have a responsibility to prescribe to pregnant women only those medications that are absolutely necessary and that are safe for consumption during each particular stage of pregnancy. Failure to follow this medical standard may make this medical professional responsible for any birth defects with which a child is born.
Fact: As many as one in ten birth defects are caused by using OTC or prescription drugs during pregnancy.
Teratogenic medications can cause birth defects in three ways: 1) they can damage the fetus directly; 2) they can damage the placenta or umbilical cord, thus increasing the risk of birth defects; and 3) they can cause uterine contractions that can injure the fetus or cause premature delivery.
The following are just some of the drugs that are known to cause birth defects:
- Antibiotics: While penicillins, cephalosporins, and erythromycins are generally considered safe, tetracyclines, sulfa drugs, ciprofloxacin, and other antibiotics can cause birth defects when taken by a pregnant woman.
- Benzodiazepines: Tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and anti-anxiety drugs can cause problems in newborns including breathing, temperature regulation, and muscle problems.
- Accutane and related dermatological drugs: Accutane poses an extremely serious risk of birth defects or death. This drug should never be used by a pregnant woman under any circumstances. Soriatane is also a dermatological drug that is extremely harmful to a developing fetus, and should not be used by any woman for three years prior to conception.
- NSAIDS: Aspirin and other drugs in the same family (salicylates) can cause birth complications and birth defects when used late in pregnancy.
- Paxil: In 2005, the FDA warned that Paxil can double the risk of heart birth defects when used during the first trimester of pregnancy.
- Prozac: In 2006, a major study found that Prozac also doubled the risk of delivering a child with the birth defect PPHN (Primary Pulmonary Hypertension).
- Anti-cancer drugs: Teratogens such as Bulsulfan, Chlorambucil, Cyclophosphamide, Mercaptopurine, and Methotrexate can cause serious birth defects including cleft palate, underdevelopment, other physical defects and mental retardation.
- Anti-seizure medications: Anticonvulsants such as Toprimate and Valproate can cause serious birth defects including spina bifida, organ deformities, cleft palate, and facial defects.
- Certain thyroid medications
- Sex hormones
- Blood pressure drugs
- Asthma medications
- Live Vaccines
If your child was born with a birth defect and you or your partner took any medications prior to or during pregnancy, you may wish to consult with a qualified and knowledgeable legal professional who can help to determine the cause and help you recover your losses.
Birth Defects and Environmental Hazards
In addition to drugs, environmental toxins can cause birth defects. While exposure to many chemicals will not lead to birth defects, some chemicals or other toxins can lead to serious and even fatal birth defects. Inhalation, ingestion, or skin absorption are the three ways by which a pregnant woman can be exposed to teratogenic chemicals.
The following are some of the chemicals and other teratogenic substances known to cause birth defects:
- Carbon monoxide
- Organic Solvents (i.e. Toluene)
- Methyl Ethyl Ketone
- Gycol Ethers
Employers have a responsibility to protect pregnant workers from teratogenic substances that can cause birth defects. Failure to prevent exposure to teratogens in the workplace may make employers culpable for birth defects. Any other party who is responsible for exposing a pregnant woman to hazardous substances that result in birth defects can also be held legally liable for all related damages. Please contact a birth defect lawyer to learn more about birth defects and your legal rights, or if you are interested in learning more about birth injuries.