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More Questions About Paxil Side Effects

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Chicago, ILA new article in ScienceNews raises questions about the risk of Paxil side effects and Paxil birth defects in children exposed to the antidepressant prior to birth. The article cites studies that suggest subtle changes in the brains of babies exposed to Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants. Paxil is one of the drugs in the SSRI class.

According to the author of the ScienceNews (06/05/10) article, Susan Gaidos, studies conducted in the past few years indicate that mice and rats exposed to antidepressants either just before or just after birth grew up anxious and depressed. A more recent study, according to Gaidos, suggests that children exposed to antidepressants while in the womb are more likely to appear sad or withdrawn at three years old than those not exposed to antidepressants.

Serotonin is produced naturally in the brain and is released into the spaces between the person's neurons. The neuron that releases the serotonin then takes it back almost immediately. This is called reuptake. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors work by preventing serotonin's reuptake. The longer serotonin remains in the space between neurons (known as the synapse), the better the person feels. People who are depressed may feel less so because the serotonin remains in the synapse for longer.

Gaidos notes that for children, serotonin may be involved in growth of young cells involved in processes such as vision, thought and memory.

Studies have been conducted to determine whether or not SSRIs have a negative impact on babies exposed prior to birth. Among the findings are that babies exposed to SSRIs had lower birth weights, an increased risk of preterm labor, and increased sadness and depression. Separate studies indicated that babies exposed to antidepressants are slower to reach developmental milestones. Meanwhile, research published in the New England Journal of Medicine has indicated an increased risk of primary pulmonary hypertension in babies exposed to SSRIs. Other side effects linked to SSRIs include congenital heart defects.

Women who are depressed and pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant must weigh the risks of discontinuing medication against the risks of taking the SSRIs. Studies have shown that women who are depressed are less likely to take care of themselves and are more likely to engage in risky behavior.

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