Paxil birth defect risk evaluated by New England Journal of Medicine

Harvey Kirk

By Harvey Kirk
Posted June 28, 2007


The increased risk of birth defects associated with Paxil and other SSRI antidepressants was evaluated in two new studies published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine.  Researchers found an association between antidepressants taken early in the pregnancy and three specific birth defects: abnormal skull development, gastrointestinal abnormality and a defect of the brain.  However, the overall risk was small.

>>INFORMATION: Antidepressant side effects

Approximately 10% of all pregnant women suffer from depression, which can pose a serious problem for the expecting mother as well as the baby.  Untreated depression can lead to poor care, a weaker bond between the mother and child and other problems for the newborn. 

In 2005, a warning was added to Paxil regarding possible heart problems in newborns, and many expectant mothers have been reluctant to take all SSRI antidepressants over concerns about potential birth defects.  These new studies may provide some comfort for pregnant women with depression, since the overall risk associated with use of antidepressants early in the pregnancy is very small.  However, the benefits of the treatment compared to the risk of injury to the unborn child will need to be weighed by each mother together with their doctor.


The studies did not evaluate a birth injury known as persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns (PPHN), which has been linked to the use of SSRI antidepressants when taken after the 20th week of pregnancy.  PPHN is a serious and potentially fatal condition where the infant may become hypoxic as a result of abnormal blood flow to the heart and lungs.  In November 2006, the FDA issued a public health advisory indicating that the use of Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft and other SSRI antidepressants could lead to a six times greater risk of this birth defect when taken by pregnant women.

>>PRIOR POST 11/3/2006: Antidepressants linked to PPHN

The Paxil lawyers at Saiontz & Kirk, P.A. are reviewing potential lawsuits for children who have been diagnosed with PPHN or suffered a serious birth defect after an SSRI antidepressant was taken during pregnancy.  To have a potential claim reviewed, request a free case evaluation.

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