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Are Paxil Side Effects a Serious Concern?

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Aspen, COEver since pregnant women have been prescribed medications, concerns about the risks associated with those medications, such as the risk of Paxil side effects have been a source of debate. While some people are concerned that the risk of Paxil birth defects is too high, others argue that the risk associated with untreated depression during pregnancy is equally alarming. Caught in the middle are pregnant women, and those who have filed a Paxil lawsuit, alleging their baby was born with heart defects after exposure to the antidepressant.

It has been known for a while that certain items can cause serious problems for newborn infants. Women who become pregnant are urged to give up alcohol and caffeine because of concerns about the risk to an unborn baby. But women are often encouraged to continue with their medications. In some situations, this makes perfect sense. If the mother has a life-threatening or serious health condition that is only responsive to medication, then it is in mother and baby's best interests to continue the medication and pray for the best as far as the baby goes.

But where antidepressant use is concerned, the line is fuzzier. Untreated depression has its own risks, such as low birth weight and developmental delays, not to mention the risk of a mother self-medicating with alcohol or other substances. In cases where the mother has severe depression, use of an antidepressant might be the only answer.

But in cases where the mother has mild depression or depression that can be treated with non-medical interventions, such as counseling or therapy, the risks associated with medication do not seem warranted to some women. Some studies suggest that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs; a class of antidepressant that includes Paxil) are associated with an increased risk of heart defects in infants and an increased risk of autism.

One such study, published in the January 2012 issue of the British Medical Journal, suggested that infants exposed to SSRI medications prior to birth had double the risk of being born with persistent pulmonary hypertension—a potentially fatal condition in which the infant does not adjust to breathing outside the womb. Although the actual risk of PPH is small—approximately 3 in 1,000 births when babies are exposed to SSRIs—it is still a worry for some mothers.

In the summer of 2010, GlaxoSmithKline reportedly agreed to settle numerous lawsuits filed against the company, which alleged its antidepressant, Paxil, was linked to birth defects in children. Approximately 800 outstanding lawsuits were reportedly covered by the settlement. The drugmaker did not admit any wrongdoing in the settlement.

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