Pregnancy Antidepressant Heart Defect Risks Questioned by New Study

A group of researchers are raising questions about the potential link between use of Zoloft, Paxil and other antidepressants during pregnancy and the risk of giving birth to a child with certain congenital heart defects.  

In a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine on June 19, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston failed to find evidence supporting pregnancy antidepressant heart risks for unborn children.

Sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, researchers looked at data on nearly a million pregnant women 2000 through 2007, comparing the risk of major cardiac defects among infants born to women who took antidepressants during the first trimester and those who did not.

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The study found that once all the confounding factors were applied, there was only a 6% increased risk of heart defects associated with antidepressant use while pregnant, which was not statistically significant. Researchers looked individually at the rate of birth defects for both Paxil and Zoloft and came to the same conclusions.

Side effects of antidepressant use during pregnancy have previously been linked to a number of different health risks for unborn children, including skull malformations, neural tube defects, heart defects, abdominal defects, spina bifida and other serious injuries. This latest study contradicts some of those earlier findings.

Recent studies have also found that antidepressant use in pregnancy may increase the risk of seizure problems and delay of infant development milestones, such as sitting and walking are affected by antidepressant use during pregnancy.

Pregnancy antidepressant use has also been linked to an increased risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension in newborns (PPHN), which is a serious respiratory disorder that may cause insufficient blood flow to the lungs, leading to serious and potentially life-threatening problems.

In recent years, a number of families throughout the United States have pursued Zoloft lawsuits, and Paxil lawsuits on behalf of children born with defects and malformations after exposure to the SSRIs during pregnancy. The complaints allege that the drug manufacturers failed to adequately research the risks associated with use of the antidepressant in pregnancy, or provide proper warnings to women about the risk of becoming pregnant while using the medication.

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