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Zoloft, Paxil During Pregnancy May Delay Child Development: Study

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The results of a new study suggest that exposure to antidepressants like Zoloft and Paxil during pregnancy may delay infant developmental goals, such as sitting and walking. 

In the study, published in this month’s issue of the medical journal Pediatrics, Danish scientists at Aarhus University in Denmark found that children born to women who took antidepressants were later in hitting developmental milestones than children of mothers who did not.

Sifting through a database of 82,000 pregnant women, researchers examined 415 women who used an antidepressant, such as Paxil, Zoloft and Prozac, during pregnancy to combat depression, and 489 women with depression who did not. Among children born to these women, looking at the six and 19-month milestones of their development, researchers found that children exposed to antidepressants learned to sit upright 16 days later and to walk a month later than children who were not exposed to antidepressants.

Researchers concluded that the children still learned to sit up and walk within an accepted time frame for development, but it was clear that the antidepressants were delaying fetal brain development, which could result in a reversible or permanent effect on the brain. Researchers said the amount of developmental delay could also be affected by when the pregnant mother exposed the fetus to antidepressants.

The use of GlaxoSmithKline’s Paxil during pregnancy has already been linked to an increased risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns (PPHN) and other heart problems The drug maker faces more than 600 Paxil lawsuits, in which plaintiffs allege that GlaxoSmithKline hid test data and misled doctors and consumers about the risk.

Paxil (paroxetine) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor prescribed to treat depression. Approved in 1992, it has become one of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States, with sales of just under $1 billion in 2008. GlaxoSmithKline has reportedly paid about $1 billion to settle lawsuits over Paxil, which have included allegations of birth defects and suicide. And with hundreds of Paxil birth defect lawsuits still pending, the company is likely to spend substantially more to satisfy jury verdicts or settle all Paxil cases.

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87 comments

  1. Jennifer Reply

    I have 3 sons and took Zoloft while pregnant with my first two but not my third. My 10 year old is described almost identical to the descriptions on this page. He’s been diagnosed over the years with everything from sensory integration disorder to ADHD and is medicated because he can not function without it He is socially immature, extremely aggressive and unaware of his actions and the consequences seem to surprise him. He tells me he feels out of control. He does not fit the typical DHD profile but falls into enough of the criteria to be labeled that. I’ve always suspected there was more to this and wondered if the Zoloft is why he struggles socially and is a longer. I feel certain it is. I just wonder what he would have been like if I had not done this? He’s so handsome and smart but his social skills and inability to focus will hold him back from what could have been amazing. I’m frustrated knowing so many have the same results. My second son is also extremely immature for his age and struggles with learning disabilities and ADHD. He’s also medicated but does not have the aggressive personality. My third son is perfectly normal and this is why I’m so suspicious of Zoloft since I didn’t take while pregnant with him. He’s normal and fun and everyone loves him.

  2. Dave Reply

    I have three children aged 18, 16 and 9. My wife took Paxil during our third pregnancy in 2001. Our nine year old had some minor issues at birth requiring extended observation. Later we discovered he was also a bit tongue tied like other writers described. We noticed a distinct difference when our youngest went to school during grades 1-2 where his reading and writing levels were markedly different from his eldest siblings. He also had a short temper and couldn’t maintain his focus on task. We sought professional help and the report revealed a diagnosis of ADD and a Learning Disability. I have long suspected a link to Paxil. Since then, we have invested a lot of time and effort in tutoring and he is now medicated to help with learning. It is still a struggle and recognise a long and frustrating road ahead, not to mention the worry about his future. Sad.

  3. Ann Reply

    From the momemt my child was born back in 2000 there was something different about him. I took Prozac in my last trimester to prevent post pardum depression. He refused to breast feed, he was irritable sometimes to the point of uncontrollable. As he got older “strong willed” was an understatement, he would have uncontrollable rages, fits, he would attack his siblings, parents or hurt himself if not put in a restraint hold. He was finally placed on medication at the age 5, since that time he has required extensivve psychotherapy and he is on mulitple psychotropic medications. He has been diagnosis with 5 different psychiatric diagnosis. He is brillant IQ wise, but his psychiatric issues have masked his abilities. He continueously is in trouble at school, he is unable to control his actions until they esculate to violence. I believe the medication had a profound effect on my child.

  4. constance Reply

    i have 3 sons, my first 2 sons i took prozac the whole time i carried them. i was told i was high risk pregnacy due to the fact when i was 6 month with my oldest son he has stopped growing and they couldn’t figure out why he was born at 32 weeks at 3 pound 14 oz. he is 11 now with adhd can not focus in school is in special ed classes takes meds at night because he can not slow down to go to sleep. very aggressive temper toward me and his sibblings very outraged and really dont know why. as for my 2 son took prozac while carring him also carried him till 36 week and he weighted 5 pds 10 oz he has the adhd also and takes meds at night with the outraged temper but has been placed in the hospital with hearing problems and kidney problems he also has special ed classes in school both my oldest have been held back in school. now my younest son i took no meds and he is the opposite of my oldest two. and i have been told that it could be the resoult of taking prozac and i would really like to know. for the doctors tell you the taking the medication is ok and then everything goes wrong. when all you want is to have a healthy baby then you are spending the rest of your life trying to take care of a child with problems you find out is casued by medicne doctors give you…

  5. Rachel Reply

    I took Zoloft during my second pregnancy. with my now 3 year old daughter. She has explosive mood swings. Her daily ” Tantrums” last up to two hours and then it is like a switch turns off and it’s like she never had one. She is Hateful and hurtful in her words, hits kicks pushes ( for no reason at all) Don’t get me wrong, she is smart, my oh my is she smart. ( smart mouthed too!) She can be loving, but the mean out ways the kindness. Her pediatrician has referred us to a psychiatrist because whatever is causing my beautiful daughter to have these mood swings and being as hurtful and mean as she is and then snapping back to “normal” is out of her spectrum of care. I really worry that my choice to take Zoloft during my pregnancy was really a bad choice and I have hurt my child and her future. * started taking Zoloft 9/2005 for post partum depression after the Birth of my twins. No antidepression med’s taken during pregnancy with them.*

  6. Erica Reply

    i was never on paxil,but, when my youngest son (who is now 2) was concieved, my husband was taking paxil. my son was very slow to sit up, crawl, walk. he has horrible screaming and crying fits that can last for hours. He also clenches his fists and his whole body goes stiff as he does this horrible gutteral screams. he is unconsolable when he has these temper tantrums. He has started banging his head on the floor and hitting himself. could these problems be caused by my husband being on the medication?

  7. Jamie Reply

    I took Paxil for the second and third trimester. My daughter was born with duplicated kidneys and ureters. One of the ureters connected in the bladder neck area and she was quite sick as a baby. She had one half of her kidney and the abnormal ureter that was infected removed at one years of age. She also has feet that turn outward. Wondering if anyone else knows about these birth defects and any connection to Paxil?

  8. Andrea Reply

    I was also diagnosed with post-pardum depression after I had my first son. My doctor prescribed 50mg of zoloft daily, which I took until I became pregnant with my second son. I asked my doctor if it was safe to continue taking the drug through my pregnancy and she assured me that it was. Long story short; my youngest son was diagnosed with autism and speech apraxia. His older brother is considered ‘normal.’ I just want some answers…

  9. Anne Reply

    I just love all the drug companies that said/saying/will say that a depressed pregnant woman is more harmful to the baby than taking the SSRIs while pregnant. Because what is more depressing to the mother and her child than knowing that you did something (does not matter that you did not know) to cause this horrible situation that will not end? Lilly and friends get to laugh all the way to the bank.

  10. Shawnna Reply

    My beautifyl daughter. I love her so. Her gross motor was delayed as a baby, I discussed her low tone with her doctor. He said not to worry as she wasnt behind YET. I worked with her at home. She needs low stress, naps still, routine, routine routine, shes been in speech for 2 years and struggles due to low tone. Floppy mush mouth. She doesnt process information correctly as an 8 yr should. Anything more than 2 steps and Ive lost her… shes bewildered. I homeschool her and see some dyslexia or/and wandering eye. And when she gets upset. Wow. We work hard not to trip that trigger. I wander about ADD for her as well. I was on Paxil, my doctor told me it was safe, safer than Zoloft, which I had used in college. Id like more infornmation please so I can find a way to help my child. Please.

  11. Charon Reply

    I went back and forth taking zoloft while pregnant with my son, who is now 7 months. I have a history of depression and anxiety disorder and have also been treated for bipolar disorder. but all the other medications I had taken were not “ok” to take while pregnant, however i was told zoloft was. The day I took the script to the pharmacy, the pharmacist who was a friend of mine advised me not to take it, so I didnt at first then my mood just kept getting worse so I did take it. Well I do have a very intelligent 7 mo old, who is off the charts in his development and his size. however, he has some of the most horrible fits I have ever seen with a child his age. He has been having these since about 3 mo old. Full blown fits where he throws his head back and arches his back and screams and screams. He hates to nap, barely does and is so restless. he does sleep good thru the night but thats it. I fear that his mood will get worse and the aggressive behavior. I am now thinking of not having another child because I have such emotional issues I dont think I can be off my medication again.

  12. kelley Reply

    hi my name is Kelley I was taking 150mg a day of zoloft during the first few months of my pregnancy. I have a beautiful 19 month old son who is very easily frustrated, bangs his head on the floor, the wall, or hits himself in the head. He tries his best to communicate but his vocabulary is very limited. I work with him all the time on learning, but it seems like he learns new words and shortly after forgets how to say words he knew how to say. It is very frustrating, I do think it had something to do with the antidepressant I took.

  13. megan Reply

    i took zoloft in my last month of pregnancy and my daughter is now 19 months and is very physically delayed. she cant say mama or dada and dont even make any sounds much. she cant sit on her own crawl or walk. and just learned how to hold her own bottle. she has muscle weakness all over and has difficulty sucking out of her bottle and can chew foods. She has been recently diagnosed as epileptic and She has now getting into screaming fits where she kicks all about. I was just wondering if taking zoloft would effect her like this. Thanks fro any help

  14. Sam M Reply

    The mother of my son demanded Paxil in her first trimester. My family has a history of heart disease [grand father passed from a heart attack at 56, my father had a heart attack at 57] and I am curious if I should be extra diligent with my son as he starts to play sports and so on. So far his development is on track but I am more concerned about his heart down the road.

  15. Laura S Reply

    My friends 10 year old son was diagnosed with Lukemia on Friday. She took Paxil during her pregnancy (Dr said is was fine). He was born with the heart defect , colic, speech problems(he was tounge tied), uncontrolable rages, didn’t toilet train until he was 5. She went to psycholagists for the rages and they told her it was her parenting!!! I feel so frustrated that these Dr.’s are telling patients to take these medications during pregnancy! My cousin has anxiety and her Dr told her she could take Effexor, thankfully she did not. These medications are way to new to know the long term effects on children.

  16. Caitlin Reply

    To many of the posts, I too have a son who has severe childhood apraxia, intense speech therapy, aggression issues, learning delays,most of the milestone delays such as walking, sitting, rolling talking. Was born premature and tongue tied which needed hhis fremunlum cut. Potty training still has yet to be a success and he’s almost 4. School districts, daycares, insurances, doctors, therapists, you name the problems are endless. Aggression problems autistic behavior. I was prescribed zoloft before, during and after brestfeeding the whole works and yes was told it was safe. I do not blame my doctor but the company, yes! I think it’s crazy we all have the same problems yet we cannot be compensated for this or that they continue to market this drug to pregnant women despite the consequences! I believe there are many more of these stories out there and it’s just a matter of time before the true number off people and innocent children are effected by this drug! Together our voices can be heard!

  17. Bessie Reply

    I took Zoloft my whole pregnancy. My doctor said I would be fine. My 9. Year old daughter gets angry very fast and get violent with her family and friends. She also has a deep sleep disorder and wets to bed. Could me taking Zoloft though my whole pregnancy cause these problems.

  18. Barbara Reply

    Lisa from 2011 – your son sounds so much like mine. Even the crystals in the urine. Only thing different is breathing problems – does not have. He says heart hurts when walks but they didn’t find anything. All the rest, so much the same. Had to have tongue clipped, delays, aspergers, etc. We did also need to do adenoidectomy. He was hyper when younger, now low energy and not growing because can’t digest much. So sad, our hearts broken too, I cry every night. My 12 year old feels so alone just like yours – that there is no one like him. Other aspergers kids can eat food and are strong. Not him.

  19. Sue Reply

    I took Zoloft during and after my second pregnancy and so far my son, 7, has been perfectly healthy and on par with all tests. Hope it stays this way. So sorry to hear all these scary stories.

  20. CJW Reply

    My heart goes out to all of these families and children. I just wanted to share that I too was on Zoloft before I got pregnant. I stopped taking it as soon as I found out that I was pregnant but went right back on it after becoming very depressed. My now 4 year old daughter is happy and healthy. She was born two weeks early and had pretty bad acid reflux for the first 9 months. She started sitting up, talking and walking all at normal ages. She does very well in school and loves to learn. She still has issues with going poopy in the potty, and has occasional temper tantrums (what child at this age doesn’t?) Anyway, I just wanted to put that out there…

  21. Anne P Reply

    Like many who have posted I took zoloft while pregnant. Both my boys have IEP’s in school and have been diagnosed with auditory processing disorder as well as dyslexia. Their IQ is high but reading skills are @ first grade and are staying at that level no matter what special services they get (tutoring, special classes etc.). It’s very frustrating to me and my boys. Had I known then what I now suspect is a correlation between Zolpft and their learning delays, I would have never taken it.

  22. Gretchen P. Reply

    I was on both Zoloft and Wellbutrin during my second pregnancy with my daughter. I suffered major depression, OCD, and mood swings. My psychiatrist had me on 350mg Zoloft and 300mg Wellbutrin a day. I was too told this was safe during my pregnancy. My daughter was born blowing bubbles and not crying. She had fluid in her lungs and was rushed into NICU where she stayed for 5 days. She was born with a hemangioma on the side of her head. She is now almost 9 years old and the hemanogioma has disappeared, but she too has speech issues. We had to hold her back in kindergarten because she could not read well or speak well. She recently had a walking pneumonia and got me thinking about long term effects of these meds. I have been considering contacting a lawyer in regards to all the Zoloft lawsuits. I can’t help but feel my daughters life is going to be less than what it could have been if she had not been exposed to these medications. I took these medications my entire pregnancy and nursed her as well on them.

  23. Jacqueline Reply

    Does anyone know of any research being conducted on this subject? Or anywhere to turn for diagnoses? My 4 year old son is displaying several of the behaviors stated above. I was prescribed Zoloft during my 3rd trimester. He was diagnosed with autism via our school system. But when I took him to OT and a rehabilitation MD they stated he was 100% not autistic. The MD says that he needs neuro testing. She informed me that she would research the best hospitals to see if anyone other MDs were treating children similar to my son. But it seems to me that this message board has been most helpful. PLEASE share with me if you have knowledge that could send me in a direction. This is extremely frustrating. Thanks

  24. ashley Reply

    I was reading many of these comments that were being left, and a lot of them lead up to exactly what my 6 year old son is going through, I took zoloft when I was pregnant with him, he has speech issues, took longer to crawl, walk, get potty trained, etc. he also has one eye that turns in so he has glasses to help with that. I\’ve been told by his doctor, that he is very hyperactive in which he\’s on medication to help calm him down which that doesn\’t help a whole lot. He gets frustrated very fast which then causes him to lash out at others. School helps him as best as they can, but he\’s still have a 2-3 year old level. Just curious to know if there is anything that we can do. Thank you for your time, I look forward to be hearing from you.

  25. Nicole Reply

    My 12 year old daughter has been explosive and aggressive for 7 years. She has been on an IEP for 4 years. She has speech, receptive and expressive disorder is on the ASD spectrum and has violent incoherent angry outbursts. She has been diagnosed with ADHD, receptive-expressive language disorder, behavioral disorder and intellectual disability. She has been to countless therapists, countless medications, change in diet, behavior intervention to no avail. I took Zoloft 100mg my entire pregnancy and was told it was ok. My daughter is paying a huge price as well as my entire families emotional health and well being. Noone knows what to do. Recently she was suspended from school for physical and verbal violence against teachers. She is scheduled for a neuro-psych eval, and a crisis intervention is in place. My daughter exhibits quick violence and low memory and extreme behavior disorders. I know it is d/t the fact that I took Zoloft throughout my pregnancy.

  26. sarah Reply

    all thease comments are so my two kids my son is three and my daughter is 2 i took zoloft my entire pregnancy a higher dose with my son. i feel so gulty and sick to think if i had only not taken it they would be ok now. but the doctors said it was safe and it was better to have a happy mum. my son has sensory problems to the point he would vomit his food up as he was scared of it he is scared of doing number 2’s full stop and on meds to make him. and is booked in to be tested for asd and has speech delay. my daughter i took a lower dose & also breastfeed and as soon as i stopped breast feeding her it was like she came alive from just staring at her hands all the time at 10 mths she has a speech delay but is getting there slowly they both have just out of no where angry uncontrolable out bursts my son is very very ruff towards his stister i thought it was normal at first as they were very young they both struggle socially with other kids my daughter is scared of other kids she just hides in a courner constintly. anyone thinking of taking it i hear of i will tell them dont do it if i had of known this my kids would be ok now i will never forgive myself ever but i hope thid page of comments helps to stop doctors giving it to pregnant women.

  27. Alyssia Reply

    I took Zoloft during my first trimester of my second pregnancy. My son, now 1 1/2, throws the normal temper tantrum but also hits his head on anything near him. He does not seem to respond to the pain. He also was born with a syst on his temple. Doctors say that it is nothing to worry about but I am now concerned that it has grown in size and may at some point become cancerous. Has anyone had anything like this?

    Also I am so sorry to read some of these stories. I am thankful that it wasnt this bad for us. Stay strong parents. All of these children need our love more than anything!

  28. Angel Reply

    I had taken Paxil, Effexor and Zoloft at different times, but not during my pregnancy. My child was born with defects in the heart, intestinal and urinary tract. My child has anger and emotional out bursts that seem untypical. They have mentioned suicide several times. My child is 7.

  29. HELEN Reply

    i was taking zoloft for deppression for two years,and was still on zoloft while pregnant on my 3rd child.and did not know i was pregnant and the doctor had increased my dose to 100 mg.and i took it for two months in my pregnancy.and stopped cold turkey.andmy son came out with birth defect.his right hand was webbed index fingers and has had 3 surgerys.to correct his deformites.his right chest dont have muscle and was born with uneven bacl shoulder blade uneven scoleocis,chest cavitie pushed in,and he has had trouble with breathing problems.lucky he wasnt a female,he feels very different i got disability on him.his right limb is smaller then othe limb.and i have a zoloft suit,and they have proof of zoloft but now it saying there isnt no proof of me injestion of zoloft in my blood tests.my doctor did not check for it, so what else can i do? like they test for other drugs in your blood.but not zoloft.they say that zoloft stays in your system for a long time.next i have appt with my gyn ob,so he can help me with this matter.he doesnt know that my son has this birth deffect due to the zoloft. my other kids came out good health.help me? how can a blood test prove that i was taking my zoloft.but have proof of my precription.

  30. Erika Reply

    My 7 yar old son has had speech and language development problems since he started talking. I too was on Zoloft during my third trimester to help reduce depression. He has had special services through the school, language and speech pathologists, and special Ed services since he was in Preschool. After everything we have done to help him, nothing seems to work. I’m so concerned taking the Zoloft during pregnancy has caused this problem. Now reading that language and speech delays are effecting other childer under the same circumstances I am convinced this isn’t just a coincidence.

  31. Susan Reply

    I took Paxil 20 mg a day when I was pregnant and nursing my now 7 yr. old son. When he was three he was speaking a lot but repeating a lot. We really prayed for him and he seemed to kick in with normal speech. As he went to school he was doing great, high honor role and very good reader. By first grade I started to notice emotional issues. Crying when he couldn’t do something, impatient and very talkative. I never thought much about it as I just thought there were personality. Now he is in 2nd grade and he still cannot tolerate his younger brother, can’ t take losing a game and will have an outburst of anger. We always worked with him to get him to calm down and regroup. Only in the last month something else came up. All of a sudden, isolated insidences of throwing up and diarrehea. Now I think all these things are linked together and there might be emotional issues, like ADHD or sensory issues. All this extremely heartbreaking that these drugs have caused damage to certain children’ s lives and families. No lawsuit could ever replace what has happened to these children. All these posts saying the same things over and over.
    My other two children 5 yrs. and 3yrs. are perfectly fine, normal and high functioning. When I was pregnant with each of them I weaned down to 25 mg. of Zoloft and at different moments off completly. Currently, I am pregnant with my 4 and for some reason could no longer handle Zoloft, so now I am on low dose of Wellbutrin and exercising everyday to keep myself from anxiety. It really helps. In the process of trying to get off completely.
    It’s good to know that there are others out there who can relate to the horrible feeling that these drugs caused these problems. The feelings of guilt and anger and disbelief. I continue to rely of God for ultimate healing and strength.

  32. jr Reply

    I was on Zoloft during both of ypregnancies and my kids are very smart. My son was walking at 9 months and my daughter was saying mom and crawling at 8 months. I find it funny that people say their kids are anxious and high strung. Maybe they are like their parents, isn’t that why people take zoloft? Maybe its just genetics.

  33. not important Reply

    Wife did not take anything during first pregnancy and my 6 yr old is fine. She took Zoloft during 2nd pregnancy and this daughter has significant motor and speech problems. Clear to me what has happened.

  34. Laurie Reply

    I was on 40 mg prozac for nine months .my daughter has fits , anger .and phonologial speech disablity .she has be in pre k for 3years .she is behind other kids.now she will start speech therapy through childrens .she has been in early intervention but I needed i to get here more help.

  35. Jaimie Reply

    My daughter Harley Quinn was born on May 12th 2005 these are her following birth defects : Asd ( atrial Septal Defect ) , Sensorineural Hearing Loss a coclear malformation , Vesicoureteral Reflux Grade4, Patent Ductus ArtArteriosus , Failure to thrive, Dysphagia , Otitis Media; Chronic, Hypotonia ,Development Delay , Gerd with Aspiration , fed by G-tube , Unspecified Hypothyroidism , Asd atrial septal defect Secundum , Feeding difficulty , Multiple congenital anomalies , Profound intellectual disability , Disruptive behavior disorder . THiS IS EVERYTHING its a long list but I believe the cause is from the PAXIL I was prescribed for depression when I was pregnant. Harley is in a wheel chair because she cannot walk long distances she is just learning to walk at 8 years old thanks to PT, she does not eat anything by mouth she gets a formula through a G-tube she receives OT and Speech at school, and is followed up with NationWide Children;s Hospital.

  36. april Reply

    Was on Zoloft 100 mg. Was ashured by ob completely safe. My son is 6 months old. Since 3 weeks old severe refluxe, chronic constipation, can’t digest dairy or soy proteins. Is tube fed at night (12 hrs/day) because not gaining weight or height. Diagnosed failure to thrive at 3 weeks old. On growth chart weight is 3%, height 7%. He was 6,10 when born. He had to be taken at 38 weeks b/c my blood pressure spiked. Now he only eats 12 oz/day. This is my 2nd child. He’s on 2 meds for reflux, 1 to help digestion and stool softener. My first child is 18 yes old and normal and didn’t take any meds while pregnant.

  37. Christine Reply

    I took Paxil my entire pregnancy. 1999/2000 my son was born in april of 2000 He had problems breathing and was tongue tied. at two weeks old they clipped his tongue. He has speech problems and has been in therapy since kindergarten . in 4th grade we had his tongue clipped again. he still can not stick out his tongue. He has issues breathing and also has excessive breast tissue. He voices to me often that he is sad and doesn’t know why. This all breaks my heart. If only I had not taken paxil

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