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Paxil during third trimester triples risk of serious birth defect, study finds

February 15th, 2012

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has found that women who use the antidepressant drug Paxil during the third trimester of pregnancy are nearly three times more likely than non-users to give birth to a child with persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN).

PPHN is a type of congenital birth defect that causes circulatory problems in newborns. The condition results from the failure of a fetal blood vessel to close after delivery, making it difficult for the child to get oxygen from the lungs into the bloodstream. Although PPHN can be treated with surgery or other therapies, it may lead to lifelong physical or developmental difficulties.

While researchers observed a significantly increased risk of PPHN among women who took Paxil after the 20th week of pregnancy, the study also revealed an increased for the condition among women who began taking the antidepressant early in pregnancy. Women who started using Paxil before the eight week after becoming pregnant were 30% more likely than non-users to give birth to a child with PPHN.

The BMJ study also observed an increased risk of PPHN among other drugs in the same antidepressant class as Paxil, known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Women who used the drugs Zoloft, Prozac and Celexa after the 20th week of pregnancy were twice as likely to give birth to a child with PPHN as those who did not take the drugs.

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