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Studies on Zoloft Birth Defects Yield Conflicting Results

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Boston, MARecent studies on Zoloft birth defects have yielded conflicting results, with one study finding no significant association between the use of the antidepressant and the development of Zoloft side effects in infants. A different study, however, suggests that infants exposed to the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) prior to birth could be at risk for a Zoloft birth defect.

One study, published by the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry (published online, 6/12/13), suggested that some drugs in the SSRI class are linked to an increased risk of birth defects. Researchers sought to determine whether there was a risk associated with individual SSRIs and “major, minor, and cardiac malformation among infants born to women taking these medications.”

To carry out the research, they reviewed a variety of studies on SSRIs and cardiac malformations. Researchers found that fluoxetine (Prozac) and paroxetine (Paxil) “were associated with increased risk of major malformations,” with paroxetine associated with an increased risk of cardiac malformations. Sertraline (Zoloft) and citalopram (Celexa) were not found to be significantly associated with congenital malformation. Researchers recommended that women in their first trimester and those who could be at risk of an unplanned pregnancy should avoid using fluoxetine and paroxetine.

Meanwhile, a study published in BMJ (4/19/13) suggests that the use of SSRIs during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder. The study was conducted in Sweden and found that in utero exposure to SSRIs and tricyclic antidepressants was associated with an “increased risk of autism spectrum disorders, particularly without intellectual disability.” Researchers noted, however, that it was not clear whether the association was due to the antidepressant itself or the mother’s severe depression.

Previous studies have suggested a link between SSRI medications and other birth defects, including persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, cleft palate and cardiac septal defects.

Lawsuits have been filed against the makers of various SSRI antidepressants, alleging children were born with birth defects after being exposed to the drugs. One such lawsuit was reportedly filed against Pfizer, maker of Zoloft. The Madison-St. Clair Record (7/8/13) reports that the plaintiff alleged she was prescribed Zoloft during pregnancy and her daughter was born with defects, including heart problems. The lawsuit alleges Pfizer knew about the risks of Zoloft, but hid those risks from the public.


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I took Zoloft for a few months first trimester. My daughter has intellectual disabilities. She is 18 in August of this year. Not sure if there would be a case.



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