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Are Prozac Side Effects a Cause for Concern?

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Boston, MADespite concerns about the potential risk of Prozac side effects, especially as those side effects impact infants, research shows that more women are using medications while pregnant than in the past. This means that more infants could be at risk of complications, including reported Prozac birth defects.

According to a study conducted by Boston University's Slone Epidemiology Center, and published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (04/25/11), more women are taking medications while pregnant than before. These medications include both over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Researchers found that in the last three decades, use of prescription drugs during the first trimester increased by more than 60 percent. Meanwhile, the use of four or more drugs tripled. Furthermore, as of 2008, approximately half of pregnant women reported that they took at least one medication.

Researchers concluded that the data "reflect the widespread and growing use of medications by pregnant women and reinforce the need to study their respective fetal risks and safety."

At least some of the increased use of medications during pregnancy is reportedly due to the development of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, a class of antidepressant that includes Prozac.

The issue is that some drugs, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, have been linked in studies to birth defects. A concern is that some women might be unknowingly using a medication that could cause harm to the fetus while not using another medication that could be safe. What is important, researchers say, is that women and their physicians have access to all the information about a medication's safety so they can make a decision as to whether the drug's benefits outweigh its risks.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have been linked in studies to an increased risk of persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), a rare but potentially fatal condition. In infants with PPHN, the baby's blood flow bypasses the lungs, resulting in a lack of oxygen reaching the infant's organs. Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn can be reversed with treatment, but some infants may require surgery. Not all infants with PPHN survive.

Lawsuits have been filed against the maker of Paxil, a different SSRI, alleging that infants were born with PPHN after being exposed to the medication prior to birth. Hundreds of those lawsuits were reportedly settled in 2010.


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