Prozac and Paxil Linked to Birth Defects

A new study by the government, which studied thousands of women has found a link between Paxil and Prozac and birth defects. These two older antidepressant medications have been shown to lead to birth defects, but newer antidepressants do not have this risk, according to the governmental study. Newer antidepressant medications that do not have the risk of birth defects include Lexapro, Zoloft, and Celexa.


These types of medications fall into a class of drugs which are known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, which is also known as SSRI’s. There have been a lot of studies in the past that have questioned SSRI medications, which then prompted the Food and Drug Administration in 2005 to issue safety warnings about these types of antidepressant medications being used while pregnant. This new study, which was published in the British Medical Journal, was led by researchers from the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The researchers were wanting to see if the risk of birth defects was for the entire class of antidepressant medications or if the risk was only associated with a few different treatments.

The study included researchers asking about 28,000 women if they ever took Lexapro, Prozac, Celexa, Paxil or Zoloft at any point from one month before conception through the third month of pregnancy. The researchers then analyzed which women out of the 28,000 ended up with a child who had some birth defect. Out of the many antidepressants that are popular, such as Zoloft, Lexapro and Celexa, the researchers found these three did not have any associated link with birth defects. However, the researchers found out that the antidepressant medications Prozac and Paxil, did have a link to birth defects, and these two were the only two medications in the study with an associated risk. Prozac is sold generically as paroxetine and generically Paxil is sold under fluoxentine. The researchers found that in women who took the two medications early in their pregnancy, a birth defect happened 2 to 3.5 times more when compared with the women who did not take the antidepressant medications.

In terms of what the birth defects were, the Prozac was responsible for the baby’s skull to come out misshapen. The Paxil use had been associated with a birth defect in which the baby’s intestines protruded outside of the body. Paxil also was found to be associated with anencephaly, which is when the baby is missing a part of the skull and brain, and these birth defects were found with the medication in the study. Both of the antidepressant medications, Paxil and Prozac, were associated with a heart defect. The authors of the study did not that the risk was small, such as the risk of anencephaly going up from 2 cases per 10,000 to 7 cases per 10,000. This means that while there was an increase in risk, by about three times as much, the overall risk of your baby developing a condition like anencephaly is still pretty minor. The analysis that the researchers performed though were able to say that the birth defects were linked to the antidepressant medication, but it is important to note that the results could not say the medication directly caused the birth defects. So while there is a pretty strong link associated between the antidepressant medications and the birth defects, the researchers could not definitively say that the medications were the root cause of the defects.


The authors of the study have said that the findings regarding Zoloft are reassuring, since Zoloft was used by about 40 percent of all women who were involved in the study at some point during the early parts of their pregnancy. The thing that women need to do is talk to their doctors if they are pregnant or think they will soon become pregnant, because a lot of medications do carry risk if the woman is taking it while pregnant. It is also important to say that if you are suffering from depression, you should not avoid taking medications just because there are slight risks to unborn children. The good news from the study was that it was only Paxil and Prozac that was found to have the link to the birth defects, and there are plenty of other antidepressant medications out there for you to take, even if you are pregnant.

It is good to avoid these two medications if you are pregnant and needing some antidepressant medications, but you should not just dismiss your depression during pregnancy. The doctors are very knowledgeable when it comes to handing out proper antidepressant medications to women who are pregnant, and so it means you don’t have to suffer with depression even during pregnancy. Some doctors do prefer to wait for the woman to be out of the first trimester before prescribing a low dose of an antidepressant, since the beginning of pregnancy, known as the first trimester is so vital and vulnerable at the same time. Most importantly this study just shows that women need to be aware of what medication they are on while pregnant, and you should be talking to your doctor if you have any concerns about the medication and what it could do to your unborn baby, and that goes for all types of medications you might be taking while pregnant.

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Jeanne Rose
Jeanne Rose lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has been a freelance writer since 2010. She took Allied Health in vocational school where she earned her CNA/PCA, and worked in a hospital for 3 years. Jeanne enjoys writing about science, health, politics, business, and other topics as well.