Why is Zoloft causing Birth Defects?
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has warned patients that taking Zoloft® or any other SSRI during pregnancy has been directly linked to Congenital Heart Defects. These birth defects were 5 times more likely to occur in women who have taken it during pregnancy. The most common defects are Heart Defects, Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension and Abdominal & Cranial birth defects. The heart defects were, in most cases, Atrial and Ventricular Septal Defects, which are characterized by holes in the walls of the chambers of the heart. Heart-related birth defects range in severity from minor, which may resolve without treatment, to severe conditions, which usually require surgical repair.
Drug companies have downplayed the risk to fetuses of the use of these drugs during the first trimester of pregnancy. However, recent studies have shown a significant increase in occurrence of serious birth defects as a result of using some of these drugs during the first trimester. If you were taking an SSRI before you found out you were pregnant, there is a possibility that your child’s birth defect was caused by the drug — even if you stopped taking it once you found out you were pregnant. Recent litigation has held these drug companies accountable for their failure to warn of these risks. If you or a loved one has taken an SSRI and given birth to a child with a congenital birth defect, you may be entitled to compensation.
Zoloft Birth Defects
Zoloft, an antidepressant medication, is one of the most popular serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) available. However, studies have shown that the medication can cause serious Zoloft birth defects, including persistent pulmonary hypertension of a newborn (PPHN), atrial septal defects (ASD), heart problems, craniosynostosis, omphalocele, and ventrical septal defects (VSD).
Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of a newborn (PPHN)
If infants born with hypertension or high blood pressure continue to experience symptoms, they may develop persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN). PPHN is a serious lung condition characterized by restricted blood flow to the lungs, which increases infant blood pressure over a prolonged period of time. Symptoms include fainting, bluish lips and skin, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and irregular heartbeat. Medical professionals recognize five major birth defects, of which PPHN is one.
Atrial Septal Defects (ASD)
In 2009, a study published in the British Journal of Medicine linked the use of Zoloft to the occurrence of atrial septal defects (ASD), a congenital heart disease. The study showed that Zoloft use during the first trimester can double an infant’s risk of ASD, which occurs when holes appear in the chambers of an infant’s heart. Symptoms include shortness of breath, lack of appetite, and fatigue.
This congenital defect occurs when the connections between an infants skull plates, or bones, close too early, resulting in an abnormally shaped head. This Zoloft birth defect can manifest in several ways; the most common type is sagittal synostosis (scaphocephaly), in which the head grows long instead of wide, creating a broad forehead. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the majority of infants with craniosynostosis have normal intelligence. The cause of craniosynostosis is unknown.
Omphalocele is a type of hernia that develops in utero, and is a common Zoloft birth defect. Infants with omphalocele are born with their abdominal organs, such as the intestines, located outside of their belly button. Omphalocele is different from other Zoloft birth defects in that it can be detected during pregnancy via ultrasound. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 25 to 40 percent of infants with omphalocele also suffer from other birth defects.
Ventricular Septal Defects (VSD)
Like ASD, ventricular septal defects are a type of congenital heart disease caused by holes in the heart’s chambers. VSD generally develops with Zoloft use during the first trimester, and symptoms include lung infections, fatigue, rapid heart rate, heart murmurs, selling of the abdomen, feet or lungs, and bluish nails, skin or lips.
Other Zoloft birth defects
Several other birth defects and complications are associated with the use of Zoloft during pregnancy. These include premature birth, autism, and infants suffering from Zoloft withdrawal. Mothers who take the medication during pregnancy may have a valid legal case against Pfizer, if their children are born with Zoloft birth defects.
Zoloft Side Effects
Zoloft, or sertraline hydrochloride, is a popular selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), a type of antidepressant drug. Zoloft is used to treat social anxiety disorder, depression, panic disorder, and other mood and anxiety disorders. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved Zoloft in 1991, and since that time it has become one of the most prescribed antidepressant drugs in the United States.
Zoloft is associated with a wide range of side effects, including birth defects, suicide and suicidal thoughts. Pfizer, the manufacturer of Zoloft, has been the subject of many lawsuits due to these serious Zoloft side effects.
Zoloft Birth Defects
Zoloft is linked to increased risk of several birth defects, including persistent pulmonary hypertension of a newborn (PPHN), congenital heart defects, and cleft lip and cleft palate.
In 2006, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study demonstrating that mothers taking SSRI antidepressants during early pregnancy were six times more likely to give birth to children with PPHN. That same year, the FDA issued a public warning regarding the risks of PPHN when taking SSRI antidepressants during pregnancy.
In 2007, the New England Journal of Medicine published another study, which found that women taking Zoloft during their first trimester had twice the risk of giving birth to a child with heart defects. In 2009, a study in the British Medical Journal showed that Zoloft is linked to an increased risk of septal heart defects, which occur when infants have holes in the chambers of their hearts. In 2010, a study published in the American Journal of Nursing revealed that there may be a link between SSRI antidepressants and congenital heart defects.
Zoloft birth defects also include omphalocele, a condition characterized by abdominal wall defects; malformation of the anus; craniosynostosis, which are brain and skull growth defects; Zoloft withdrawal after birth; limb reduction defects; and heart defects including hypoplastic left heart syndrome.
Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should speak with their doctors before beginning or continuing use of Zoloft. Women who were unaware of the risk associated with Zoloft use during pregnancy, and gave birth to children with Zoloft birth defects, may qualify for compensation in a court of law.
Zoloft and similar antidepressants also exhibit proven links to a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior. In fact, a study by Pfizer, the manufacturer of Zoloft, showed that children taking Zoloft were four times more likely to commit suicide than those not taking the medication.
In 2004, the FDA required that all SSRI antidepressants carry a warning for patients with other psychiatric disorders, clarifying that the use of these drugs had an increased risk of suicidal behavior. The FDA also issued a public health advisory and asked healthcare providers to monitor patients for suicide warning signs or worsening depression, especially during the first few weeks of treatment.
Also in 2004, the FDA ordered all manufacturers of antidepressant drugs, including Zoloft, to add “black-box” warning to their drug labels. These warnings alerted medical professionals and patients alike to the possible suicidal side effects in children and adolescents. In 2007, the organization required antidepressant medications to carry an additional warning regarding risk of suicidal behavior in young adults aged 18 to 24.
Minor Zoloft side effects
In addition to Zoloft birth defects and suicidal behaviors, the antidepressant may cause allergic reactions, constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, increased sweating, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, and upset stomach. Rarely, more serious side effects include decreased libido, decreased sexual performance, easy bruising/bleeding, muscle cramps or weakness, shaking and tremors, and unusual weight loss.