Although the use of antidepressants has skyrocketed in recent years and they are still prescribed to pregnant women, multiple studies have demonstrated a link between antidepressant use during pregnancy and birth injuries.
Over the past 20 years, the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac and others has increased 400 percent. During the same period, several medical studies have addressed the risk of birth defects associated with the use of these medications during pregnancy. The research suggests that babies exposed to these drugs are at higher risk of developing birth injuries such as spina bifida, heart malformations and persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), among other injuries.
Antidepressants are the most commonly prescribed medication for people between the ages of 18 and 44. The risk of birth injuries has led to Class D medications such as Paxil no longer being recommended for pregnant women, but Class C medications such as Celexa and Zoloft are still prescribed for expectant mothers.
The FDA has issued warnings regarding the dangers of using antidepressants during pregnancy. In 2005, the agency warned of increased risk of heart defects for pregnant women taking Paxil. Research showed that women taking the drug in the first three months of pregnancy were twice as likely to give birth to a baby with a heart defect. The warning label for Paxil was subsequently changed from Class C to Class D. In 2006, the FDA issued another warning regarding SSRIs and an increased risk of neonatal PPHN.