According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 2,600 babies are born with a cleft palate each year. The palate, or roof of the mouth, should develop within the sixth and eleventh weeks of a pregnancy. When the roof of the mouth does not properly join together in utero, the child will have a cleft palate. In the most serious cases, a child’s entire palate will be separated. In less serious cases, there will be a slight gap in either the front or back of the palate.
Children with a cleft palate may have difficulties feeding and swallowing. Breast-feeding a child with cleft palate may not be possible, depending on the severity of the cleft. A cleft palate will prevent a child from making certain types of sounds, making it difficult for the child’s speech to develop normally. Further, children with a cleft palate are at increased risk for middle ear infections and even hearing loss. In the most serious cases, cleft palate can even impact a child’s breathing.
Surgery is usually the only treatment for a cleft palate. This surgery can occur anytime up to eight or 10 months after the child is born. In certain situations, such as when the gums are separated, additional surgeries may be necessary to accommodate the child’s permanent teeth.
Cleft Palate as a Result of Antidepressant Use During Pregnancy
As many as 1 in 8 expecting mothers will take antidepressants over the course of her pregnancy. A class of antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), has been associated with increased rates of certain birth defects, including cleft palate. These drugs, which include Zoloft, Lexapro, Cymbalta and Celexa, are commonly prescribed to women during pregnancy. According to a study conducted by the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University and published by the New England Journal of Medicine, expecting mothers who took SSRIs during the first trimester gave birth to children with a cleft palate at between 1.5 – 3 times the rate of mothers who did not take SSRIs.
While a cleft palate is a relatively common birth defect that is generally treatable, it is still a challenge that your child will have to overcome. The manufacturers of SSRIs knew or should have known of the risks associated with their product, yet chose to put them on the market anyway. If your child has a cleft palate, and you took SSRIs while pregnant, an attorney can help you understand whether you have the right to a monetary recovery.
At Lieff Cabraser, our cleft palate lawyers are national leaders in pharmaceutical injury litigation. We have the experience, tenacity, and financial resources necessary to hold drug companies accountable. Complete our online contact form below or call us toll-free at 1 (800) 541-7358 to speak to attorney Wendy Fleishman. We will review your claim promptly and confidentially.