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Maternal Use of SSRIs Late in Pregnancy May Cause PPHN

Posted in Misc. Drugs, Paxil Birth Defects, Zoloft Birth Defects

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that infants born to mothers who used selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs, a type of antidepressant medication) late in pregnancy were placed at increased risk of serious birth defects, such as persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN).

First, some background on PPHN.  One way to explain persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn is to say that it is a disease in which a newborn’s circulatory system does not mature at birth, for in this disease, blood continues to bypass the lungs as it did before birth.

In the womb, a fetus does not use its lungs, and thus its lungs do not require much blood.  Oxygen enters a fetus’s body and is circulated throughout without ever passing by the lungs, coming directly from the mother’s blood, “through special connections in the heart and the large blood vessels.”[1]

At birth, the lungs begin to breathe air, and the resulting change in pressure “helps close the fetal connections and redirect blood flow,”[2] drawing blood toward the lungs where it is loaded with fresh oxygen before being circulated throughout the body.

In newborns with PPHN, however, “these changes may not occur and the baby’s circulation returns back to the fetal system with blood directed away from the lungs.”[3]  Because of this, newborns with PPHN may not get sufficient oxygen to internal organs, resulting in a variety of problems.  Read more on the danger of PPHN here.

Conducted by Dr. Christina D. Chambers and her team, this study asked mothers whose children were born with PPHN about their use of selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors during pregnancy and compared the findings to data from mothers whose children were not born with PPHN.

Chambers and her team found that if mothers used any SSRI after the 20th week of pregnancy, infants were more than five times as likely to be born with PPHN as were infants born to mothers who did not use SSRIs during pregnancy.[4]  When mothers used SSRIs after the 26th week of pregnancy, infants were found to be more than six times as likely to be born with PPHN as were infants whose mother did not use these drugs.  SSRIs whose danger was evaluated in this study were fluoxetine (Prozac®), sertraline (Zoloft®), and paroxetine (Paxil®).

Because the danger these drugs pose to newborns was not evaluated relative to one another, we cannot conclude that any one of these drugs is either more dangerous or more benign than any other.  And because of that, we must treat Prozac®, Zoloft®, and Paxil® with equal caution, avoiding them all during pregnancy, especially late in gestation.

Due to these dangerous antidepressant side-effects of which mothers were not made aware, Prozac lawsuits, Zoloft lawsuits, and Paxil lawsuits are currently being filed.  If you believe your newborn has fallen victim to PPHN caused by antidepressants, please contact me today for a free consultation.  You can call toll-free at (855) 452-5529 or e-mail me at justinian@dangerousdrugs.us.


[1] “Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension” Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters Health System © 2013 Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters available at <http://www.chkd.com/g/content.aspx?pageid=P02400> reviewed 6 August 2011, accessed 21 January 2013

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Chambers, C. et al. (2006) “Selective Serotonin-Reuptake Inhibitors and Risk of Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn” The New England Journal of Medicine Vol. 354, No. 6; pp. 579-587