Birth defects are also known as congenital anomalies. They are defined as functional, metabolic or structural abnormalities that develop during or before birth. Most birth defects do not show themselves until the child is born.
There are at least 4,000 different birth defects that are known. Some are more serious than others. Generally, birth defects that lead to major mental, physical and emotional challenges can be fatal. Some serious birth defects may be caused by exposure to teratogens or toxins.
If you believe your baby has a birth defect from teratogens exposure, you may be entitled to compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. Please keep reading for more information.
What Are Teratogens?
Teratogen exposure is one of the most common ways that fetal abnormalities can occur. Teratogens are drugs and other substances that may interfere with the proper growth and development of a human fetus. Any chemical or factor that leads to embryo malformation is called a teratogen. Teratogens are usually substances in the environment that a woman may be exposed to during pregnancy. Some common teratogens are:
- Prescription and over-the-counter drugs
Both over-the-counter and prescription medications are teratogens that can cause some serious birth defects. It is not surprising that many pregnant women use some type of medication during their pregnancy. While there are many medications that are safe for pregnant women to take, there also are some that can damage the growing fetus.
Problems with Teratogen Exposure
A fetus with teratogen exposure could be born with complications, such as significant birth defects and developmental problems. Usually, abnormalities from teratogen exposure occur during the first trimester when the organ systems of the child are forming.
These risks are why doctors have an obligation only to recommend medications they are certain are safe during each gestation stage. Failure of some physicians to stick to this standard of care for all pregnant women and their unborn children could lead to legal liability if birth defects happen.
If you believe you were exposed to teratogens and have a baby with a birth defect, it is recommended to talk to a teratogen lawsuit attorney immediately.
Birth Defects Associated with Teratogenic Medications
A teratogenic drug can lead to birth defects in one of three ways:
- They can cause harm to the fetus directly.
- They can cause damage to the umbilical cord.
- They can lead to contractions onset and lead to premature delivery of the baby.
Below is a list of the most common medications that are known to cause serious birth defects in some unborn children: (Pedsinreview.org)
- Antibiotics: Some of these drugs, such as erythromycins, penicillins and cephalosporins are usually considered safe for pregnant women, some are not. Some unsafe teratogens are tetracyclines, sulfa drugs, Bactrim, nitrofurantoins, Furadantin or Macrobid. Also dangerous are ciprofloxins, which are associated with serious birth defects.
- Benzodiazepines: Medications such as sleeping pills, tranquilizers and other anti-anxiety drugs are connected to cleft palates & cleft lip birth defects.
- Anti-tumor drugs: Aminopterin is used to treat cancerous tumors but the drug also can cause birth defects. They operate in the body by blocking folic acid, which is needed for DNA production and cellular growth in the fetus. Folic acid is taken by pregnant women to stop birth defects. If a substance blocks folic acid in pregnant women, the result can be anencephaly, hydrocephalus, neural tube defects and facial abnormalities.
- Anti-cancer drugs: Teratogens including Cyclophosphamide, Chlorambucil and Bulsulfan are related to some birth defects, such as mental retardation, cleft lips and cleft palates.
- Blood thinners: Warfarin (See warfarin lawsuits) and other similar drugs may cause serious central nervous system problems: mental retardation and optic nerve problems.
- NSAIDs: Aspirin, ibuprofen and related drugs, called salicylates, can lead to birth problems and birth defects. The most common are cleft palates and cleft lips.
- Anti-depressants: SSRIs that are used to treat depression and anxiety can cross the placenta and affect the fetus. Most SSRIs do not have a major effect, but some can cause serious birth defects. For example, in 2005, FDA warned that Paxil can double the risk of heart defects in the fetus. Also, Prozac greatly enhances a risk of PPHN, or primary pulmonary hypertension.
- Hormones: Drugs such as androgens and progestins may cause female fetuses to be born with features that are more masculine. For example, the child’s clitoris could be enlarged, and the outer lips of the genitalia can be fused.
- Blood pressure drugs: ACE inhibitors can cause many birth defects to happen during pregnancy, such as kidney problems, fetal growth restriction and death. (org)
Teratogenic Environmental Dangers and Birth Defects
Several environmental and chemical hazards are known to cause serious birth defects. Whether the teratogen is inhaled, absorbed through the skin or ingested, the woman may expose her unborn baby to many dangers:
- Carbon monoxide
Seeking Damages for Birth Defect Drugs
As we explained earlier, some drugs or teratogens can lead to birth defects. Drug manufacturers must properly test if their products are safe before they release them to market. They also must warn the FDA, doctors and the public of serious risks associated with the drugs. Drugmakers also are required to continue drug testing and evaluating performance after the drug is on the market. Consumers have the right to recover damages in a product liability lawsuit with the help of a drug defect attorney.
Product liability lawsuits and teratogens lawsuits can be appropriate when a drug has defects that harm an embryo or fetus. These defects are with manufacturing, design, and marketing. Marketing defects are also called failure to warn; these are the most common issues in a birth defect lawsuit.
Birth Defect and Teratogen Lawsuit Settlements
A review of online results show there have been many settlements over the years for birth defects caused by teratogens and/or physician negligence:
- $9.6 million jury verdict for a brain-damaged child
- $8 million settlement for baby with cerebral palsy
- $6 million settlement for birth injury
- $4 million for birth defect
Talk to a birth defect and teratogen attorney for more information if you think your child was injured from a birth defect from a drug, chemical or other substance you were exposed to during pregnancy.
Zofran Teratogen Lawsuits
There have been many lawsuits against GlaxoSmithKline over its Zofran drug that is known to cause serious birth defects. Zofran is a serotonin 5-HT3 receptor antagonist. It is given people usually to prevent nausea and vomiting in patients getting chemotherapy. But it is often given to women with morning sickness when pregnant.
GSK pleaded guilty to marketing Zofran for off-label uses in 2012. It was ordered to pay millions in fines related to its improper marketing of Zofran to treat pregnant women.
What Is the Difference Between A Birth Defect and Birth Injury?
As noted earlier, a birth defect can be caused by many factors, such as teratogen exposure, or another agent that affects the development of the embryo or fetus.
On the other hand, birth injuries can be caused by doctor negligence during the birth process, but not always. Common birth injuries may be related to:
- Babies that are overly large
- Premature delivery
- Inadequate size of mother’s pelvis to delivery baby
- Long labor
- Abnormal fetus position
It is necessary to talk to a birth defect attorney to determine if you have case related to a birth defect or birth injury. Both cases can result in compensation for the family.
Teratogen Lawsuit for Birth Defects
If you think you were exposed to a teratogenic drug or other dangerous substance from medical negligence, it is important to be aware of your legal options.
You particularly should look for attorneys that are experienced in birth defect litigation, and have the financial resources to take a stand against powerful companies and industries that cause pregnant women to be exposed to toxic substances. You could be entitled to compensation for your child’s birth defects, medical costs, pain and suffering, and more.
Talk to a teratogen lawsuit attorney today for a complimentary legal consultation.
- Addressing Environmentally Caused Human Birth Defects. (2001). Retrieved by https://pedsinreview.aappublications.org/content/22/5/153
- Effects of Drugs and Chemicals on the Fetus and Newborn. (2000). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(12)62060-6/fulltext