Cymbalta is one of the most popular and most advertised SSNRI antidepressants. It’s an attractive drug, as it can be used to treat both severe depressive disorders and pain caused from nerve damage related to diabetes. Nerve damage is incredibly and persistently painful, and thus any medication helping treat it is often embraced with exceptional happiness. The problem is, like many SSRI and SSNRI medications, it has been linked to serious birth defects when exposed to children in the womb.

The most common defects are cardio-respiratory ones — those affecting the heart and lungs. Heart defects such as holes between heart chambers are common. A recurring disorder is PPHN, or persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn. PPHN is a condition in which a newborn infant cannot properly adapt to breathing without the assistance of the mother’s umbilical cord. Once outside the womb, breathing becomes difficult, painful and inefficient. It is not uncommon for patients with PPHN to require serious operations and lung transplants.

However, these are simply the disorders that affect the child’s body. In other cases, the child might not even make it to birth. In one study, approximately a third of women who took antidepressants in Cymbalta’s class experienced severe birthing complications. The might miscarry or give birth prematurely, the child might be born on time but underweight, or in some terrifying cases the children developed seizures.

Approximately 20 percent of women who take SSRIs and SSNRIs ended up giving birth prematurely, compared to 12 percent in those mothers who did not take the medicines. When mothers took the meds, fetal death more than doubled compared to mothers who did not expose their children. PPHN incidences increased between three and six times in frequency among infants who were exposed to SSRI or SSNRI medications while their mothers were pregnant, particularly during the first trimester.