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Paxil Birth Defects – What are the Odds?

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Elkton, VAWhile birth defects related to antidepressant use during pregnancy may be just a second hand bad news story for many people, they are all too real for hundreds, if not thousands of women across the US who know firsthand about the implications of selective serotonin uptake receptors or SSRI birth defects.

Paxil VictimEllen and April are 2 such women. Ellen is a mother of 4 children, 2 of whom were born with heart murmurs. She was taking the (SSRI) Paxil when she was pregnant with the 2 children who have heart deformities. Could those birth defects be related to Paxil?
Ellen would like to know. She was unaware during both pregnancies that Paxil can cause birth defects, specifically a 1.5 to 2 times increased risk of heart defects in babies born to women taking the drug during pregnancy. Her 2 children are now part of those statistics.

Like Ellen, April was taking Paxil for depression during both pregnancies. This was in the late 1990s, before the warnings about SSRI birth defects came out. Both April's children were born prematurely. The eldest child, Christian, had a heart murmur, discovered just hours after his birth. Jordon, Christian's younger brother, was born having what the doctors believed at the time to be tremors. He also had a twitch in his leg. But after several rounds of testing, the doctors could not tell April what was causing her son's health problems.

Then, around the time Jordon was 18 months old April noticed he wasn't talking. He didn't start talking until he was 5. He's now in the 4th grade and still has speech problems. April had no idea that taking Paxil during pregnancy could cause these types of problems in her children. She was taking the antidepressant years before the warnings came out.

Which Antidepressants are linked with Birth Defects?

It wasn't until December 2005 that the first public warnings emerged from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the potential for serious heart defects in babies born to women taking Paxil during their pregnancies. The warnings were based on good scientific evidence, including a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which found that women who took antidepressants in the third trimester delivered babies who were 6 times more likely to have primary pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) or developing a lung disorder, primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH) than babies not exposed to SSRIs.

In addition to the warning, the FDA actually placed Paxil in its second highest category for risk of birth defects, advising patients that "this drug should usually not be taken during pregnancy."

In a later warning, the FDA said that Paxil "should generally not be initiated in women who are in their first trimester of pregnancy or in women who plan to become pregnant in the near future."

But it's important to note that SSRI birth defects are not just linked to Paxil. A recent study published in the November 2008 issue of the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, reported a 3 times greater risk for heart defects in babies born to mothers taking either Prozac (fluoxetine) or Paxil. The study looked at babies born to 800 women who said they took either drug during the first trimesters of their pregnancies. In fact, birth defects are associated with a number of SSRI antidepressants, namely Zoloft, Celexa, and Lexapro, in addition to Prozac and Paxil.

Ironically, it's the Internet and not the family doctor that seems to be serving as a leading source of information about SSRI birth defects. Both Ellen and April saw ads on TV about antidepressant use and birth defects, so they got online and started doing some research. What they found really alarmed them, and got them thinking about the likelihood that the drugs they were taking could have played a role in their babies' deformities. So they are seeking legal help, and they are speaking out, telling their stories to help warn other women who may not know about the very real risks and potentially lifelong problems that referred to as 'SSRI birth defects'.



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