Paxil has been linked in a recent study to the development of serious life-threatening side effect called Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn, which is alsocommonly referred to as PPHN.
The results of the study have shown that babies born to mothers who took Paxil were 6 times as likely to develop Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN), than babies born to mothers who did not take Paxil during pregnancy.
PPHN Update 1/13/12: According to the results of a new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), women who use antidepressants in the same class as Paxil during pregnancy have a significantly increased risk of giving birth to babies with PPHN. In a comprehensive analysis of more than 1.6 million live births, SSRI antidepressant exposure during the second trimester of pregnancy was associated with a doubling of the risk of PPHN. Click here to learn more.
PPHN Update 12/15/11: The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a new press release regarding the link between SSRI antidepressants and persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). Since issuing a 2006 Public Health Advisory about the association between SSRIs and PPHN, the FDA has continued to receive conflicting findings about this potential risk. Click here to learn more.
Watch the FDA Video: SSRI Antidepressants Linked to Birth Defects
What is Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn?
PPHN is sometimes also referred to as any of the following:
- Persistent pulmonary vascular obstruction
- Persistent fetal circulation
- Pulmonary vasospasm
- Neonatal pulmonary ischemia
- Persistent transitional circulation
PPHN occurs when a newborn’s circulation system does not adapt to breathing outside the womb. While a fetus is in the womb, it gets its oxygen from its mother’s placenta through the umbilical cords, so the lungs need little blood supply. There is high blood pressure in the lungs, so blood in the pulmonary artery is sent away from the lungs to the other organs through a fetal blood vessel, called the ductus arteriosus.
When a baby is born and takes its first breaths, the blood pressure in their lungs falls and there is an increased blood flow to the lungs, where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged. The blood is then returned to the heart and pumped back out to the body. The ductus arteriosus constricts and permanently closes in the first day of life. However, in babies with PPHN, the pressure in the lungs remains high and the ductus arterious remains open, allowing blood to be directed away from the lungs.
PPHN is a rare, but life-threatening condition. It occurs most often in full-term or post-term babies who have had a difficult birth, or conditions such as infection or birth asphyxia, in which a baby receives an inadequate amount of oxygen during delivery.
Other Birth Defects Linked to Antidepressants
In addition to PPHN, the use of Paxil and other antidepressants has been linked to the following birth defects:
- Atrial Septal Defects (ASD) – also known as ‘hole in the heart’ defects
- Ventral Septal Defects (VSD) – hole in the heart wall
- Valve Problems – malformed or stuck and won’t close
- Tricuspid Valve (Ebstein’s Anomaly)
- Mitral Valve
- Transposition of the Great Arteries / Vessels
- Tetralogy of the Fallot
- Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS)
- Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome (HRHS)
- Tricuspid Atresia
- Aortic Stenosis
- Pulmonary Atresia
- Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
- Coarctation of the Aorta
- Truncus Arteriosus
- Tricuspid Valve Stenosis
- Heart Murmur
- Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN)
- Pulmonary Stenosis
- Craniosynostosis – cranial skull defect
- Omphalocele – abdominal wall defect
- Gastroschisis – abdominal wall defect
- Esophageal Stenosis
- Club Foot
- Anal Atresia
- Spina Bifida