Paxil Birth Injury

When it comes to treating clinical depression, the most effective medications are known as SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These medications are adept at altering brain chemistry to counteract the effects of many mental illnesses that are partly due to biochemical imbalance, and there are a myriad of excellent SSRIs that are available with a prescription from a physician or a psychiatrist.

However, not all SSRIs are created equal. Sometimes, taking a particular SSRI can have negative side effects for the patient; in other times, being prescribed SSRIs for depression or other mental illnesses could even have a negative effect on pregnancies.

The Dangers of Paxil

The Food and Drug Administration has classified nearly all SSRIs as having a “C” grade when it comes to whether they should be taken by pregnant women. Such a grade indicates that, while the FDA can’t ethically experiment on newborns or children still in the womb to see what the effects of SSRIs are on them, enough anecdotal evidence has emerged that the FDA believes SSRIs may cause a heightened risk for some types of birth injury. This means the federal agency can’t say definitively that SSRIs lead to birth injury, but to stay on the safe side it recommends mothers-to-be to stay away from this class of drug.

However, there’s one particular SSRI that the FDA strongly believes is more dangerous. The drug known as paroxetine, better known as Paxil by its manufacturer, is classified as having a “D” rating by the FDA. Such a rating indicates, according to the federal agency, that “there is positive evidence of human fetal risk based on adverse reaction data from investigational or marketing experience or studies in humans,” but with the beneficial effects of the antidepressant controlling the symptoms of sometimes severe mental illness, the FDA can’t completely rule out its use during pregnancy.

The Possible Side Effects of Paxil

SSRIs can have a dangerous and negative effect on developing fetuses, and Paxil is no exception. A more broad examination of what SSRIs can do to developing children was published in 2006, revealing that two to three out of every ten children exposed to SSRIs while developing – particularly towards the tail end of their development – were born with medical issues that included seizures, agitation, abnormalities in their muscle tone or their ability to suckle, and abnormally low levels of sodium (a condition known as hyponatremia).

Meanwhile, FDA research found that pregnant women taking Paxil during pregnancy were six times as likely to give birth to children that had persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHT), a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that can prevent a newborn from receiving enough oxygen. PPHT occurs when a newborn’s blood circulation does not change from its pre-birth state, keeping blood routed away from the lungs. This causes the newborn to be unable to provide enough oxygen to its bloodstream through its lungs, requiring the infant to be provided oxygen or even put on a mechanical respirator.

Because of the seriousness of a condition such as PPHT, the FDA strongly recommends physicians to consider alternative treatments for pregnant women suffering from mental illness, especially after the 20th week of their pregnancy when the risk for Paxil birth injury is at the highest. However, with the risk of a patient relapsing into major depression as a result of discontinuing their medication, the FDA counsels doctors to weigh the possibilities of such an act against the possibility of birth complications caused by not discontinuing Paxil.