En Español [ZOLOFT]
Zoloft is approved by the FDA to treat depression and social anxiety disorder. It has been on the market since 1991 and is marketed by Pfizer. Zoloft is in a class of drugs called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). Other drugs in the class, which are similar to Zoloft, have been linked in studies to serious birth defects, including persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, autism, neural tube defects and limb defects.
A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry (07/04/11) suggested that infants exposed to SSRI medications prior to birth were at an increased risk for being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Although the overall risk was low, researchers found that the risk of autism spectrum disorder doubled when the infants were exposed to an SSRI, with the highest risk being exposure in the first trimester. The researchers noted that the risk of autism should be balanced against the benefits of using an SSRI.
Zoloft and Autism Spectrum Disorders
Studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine (06/28/07) have shown other serious Zoloft birth defects. One study, conducted in association with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the risk of anencephaly (where the infant is born without a forebrain) was more than doubled when a pregnant woman took an SSRI. Meanwhile, the risk of omphalocele (where the baby is born with his organs outside his body) was almost triple. Both anencephaly and omphalocele are life-threatening conditions.
Zoloft Birth Defect
The same study found that the risk of craniosynostosis (a defect of the skull) was 2.5 times higher when infants were exposed to SSRIs prior to birth. As with other birth defects, craniosynostosis varies in severity but can be life threatening.
A different study, conducted by researchers at Boston University and published in the New England Journal of Medicine (06/28/07) also studied the risk of birth defects associated with SSRI use. While researchers concluded there was not a significantly increased risk of birth defects associated with SSRIs in general, they did find that the use of Zoloft was significantly associated with omphalocele and septal defects.
A 2011 study published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology also found a link between the use of SSRI medications and birth defects. The study found the use of certain SSRI medications was associated with increased an increased risk of ventricular septal defects, ventricular outflow tract defects, and neural tube defects.
Other studies suggest a variety of other concerns for infants exposed to SSRIs such as Zoloft. These include suffering from withdrawal symptoms, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and developmental delays.
Zoloft and Pregnancy
SSRI antidepressants have been linked to other birth defects.
Other Zoloft Birth Defects
Zoloft and Coarction of the aorta: Infants with coarction of the aorta have an aorta that is too narrow, which results in uneven blood flow throughout the baby's body. This may require medical intervention, including surgery, to resolve.
Zoloft and Hypoplastic left heart syndrome: Hypoplastic left heart syndrome occurs when the left side of the infant's heart does not fully develop. This can result in sudden death of the infant. Patients may require a heart transplant to survive and may have to undergo additional surgeries as they age.
Zoloft and Pulmonary Stenosis: Pulmonary stenosis occurs when the pulmonary valve narrows, resulting in decreased blood flow to the lungs.
Zoloft and Septal Defect: A septal defect is a hole in the wall of the infant's heart, which can cause improper blood circulation, forcing the heart to work harder than it should to pump blood. Patients may require open-heart surgery.
Zoloft and Tetralogy of Fallot: Tetralogy of Fallot is a birth defect involving narrowing of the pulmonary valve, large ventricular septal defect, dilated aorta connected to both the left and right ventricles and thickening of the right ventricle. It can result in blood not obtaining enough oxygen from the lungs before moving throughout the patient's body.
Zoloft and Transposition of the Great Arteries: Also known as transposition of the great vessels, infants who suffer from this have the aorta and pulmonary artery reversed. It can result in a lack of oxygen in the blood and may require surgery to recover.
Zoloft and Craniosynostosis: Craniosynostosis occurs when sutures in an infant's skull harden prematurely, causing a malformed skull, intracranial pressure, and a lack of growth in the child's head. A 2007 study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (06/28/07), found a potential link between the use of SSRIs during pregnancy and craniosynostosis.
Zoloft and Cleft Palate: A cleft palate occurs when the separate parts of the skull that form the roof of the mouth do not join. A cleft palate can cause problems with feeding, speech and breathing and can cause ear infections and hearing loss.
Zoloft and Cleft Lip: A facial defect that affects the infant's upper lip, which can cause delays in speech and language.
Zoloft and Club Foot: Club foot occurs when the bones, joints, muscles and blood vessels in an infant's leg and foot develop abnormally. Infants with club foot have their foot turned inward and downward, and often experience pain and problems with mobility.
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