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drugs-birth-defects

Anti-Depressants & Birth Defects

Birth Defects linked to Anti-Depressants

Pregnant women get advice from every side. Do this. Stop that. Take this pill. Avoid that drug. It is hard to know what advice to follow. Even medical professionals dole out conflicting directions and change their minds occasionally.


Recently, the Food and Drug Administration - the U.S. governmental agency whose mission is to protect and promote the public health - revised a warning it issued in 2006 regarding a possible link between certain types of antidepressants and a serious and life-threatening condition for newborns.


Persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns, or PPHN, causes a baby's normal circulatory function to fail shortly after birth. One to two babies out of 1,000 born in the U.S. are born with this rare condition and almost 20 percent of them die from it. Furthermore, a 2006 medical study revealed that newborns whose mothers took certain types of antidepressants during pregnancy were six times more likely to have PPHN.


SSRIs - selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors - are popular antidepressants used to treat depression, anxiety disorders, chronic pain and some personality disorders. The most common SSRIs on the market are:

  • Zoloft
  • Wellbutrin (also known as Bupropion)
  • Celexa (Citalopram)
  • Paxil
  • Prozac
  • Xanax

Following the 2006 report, the FDA warned about the continued use of SSRIs past the 20th week of pregnancy but also stated that failure to take the antidepressants caused a five-fold increase in risk of depression relapse. Unfortunately, untreated depression can cause poor prenatal care, low birth weight and an increased risk for abuse.


Studies performed since 2006 reveal mixed results, with about half finding no link to SSRI use and the other half confirming the increased risks. The most recent study performed in five Nordic countries found that the risk of PPHN is only twofold with continued use of SSRIs but found untreated depression also creates an increased risk of PPHN. As a result, doctors frequently advise women to stay on the antidepressants despite the risk of PPHN for the well-being of themselves and their children.


If you are or have been treated for depression and are of childbearing age, consult with a medical professional about the possible dangers to you and your unborn child. If your newborn suffered from PPHN, consult with an attorney knowledgeable with neonatal issues such as PPHN, increased risks with the use of SSRIs and other drug interactions.