The current information that exists regarding Zoloft indicates that taking the medication during a pregnancy can be harmful the fetus. Zoloft is classified as a Pregnancy Category C drug by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which indicates the level of harm for an unborn child. If you are currently taking Zoloft and become pregnant, you should speak with your doctor as soon as possible about whether the benefits of using Zoloft outweigh the risks to your unborn child.
Pregnancy Category C means that there are a number of known side effects experienced by newborns as a result of the mother taking Zoloft while pregnant. These include: birth defects; persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN); withdrawals; congenital heart defects; atrial or ventricular septal defects (known as a hole in the heart; omphalocele (abdominal birth defects); and, craniosynostosis (cranial birth defects).
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Reports have shown that if a fetus is exposed to Zoloft during the third trimester, complications may develop requiring hospitalization, tube feeding, and/or respiratory support. The newborn child had a number of symptoms which included feeding difficulties, tremors, difficulty breathing, a lack of oxygen to the blood, seizures, and constant crying.
The results from a case-controlled study by the National Center for Birth Defects study (which was conducted from 1997-2002) were released by The New England Journal of Medicine. The study revealed an increase of infants being born with persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN). The release of this study prompted the FDA to issue a Public Health Advisory that warned about the extreme risks of PPHN to a fetus during pregnancy based on exposure to Zoloft. The study also indicated that taking an antidepressant such as Zoloft can cause one of two congenital abnormalities called omphalocele and craniosynostosis.
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The FDA continues to warn healthcare providers and patients about the risks associated with taking Zoloft during pregnancy. Congenital heart defects are another side effect from taking the pregnancy Category C medication. The most common form of heart birth defects induced by Zoloft was either a ventricular septal or an atrial septal defect.
Present at birth, omphalocele is a condition that causes a congenital abdominal wall defect at the bottom of the umbilical cord. A sac protrudes through the defect at the time of birth, containing the large intestine, small intestine and liver.
Craniosyntosis is also present at birth and causes one or more sutures on the newborn’s head to close sooner than normal. This congenital defect affects the sutures that should separate skull bones. The infant will have an abnormally shaped head if the sutures close too early.
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You should immediately inform your healthcare provider if you are taking Zoloft and become pregnant. Even if you are considering becoming pregnant, tell your doctor. The benefits and risks associated with taking Zoloft during a pregnancy will be carefully weighed. Your doctor could recommend reducing your dosage of Zoloft. Another option is to begin weaning you from the drug once you enter the third trimester, when the risks of birth defects increase. If you are using Zoloft and are pregnant DO NOT discontinue Zoloft use without consulting your physician first as sudden discontinuation of the medication can be worse for the baby than continued use.
If you were taking Zoloft while pregnant and your baby suffered birth defect injuries, you should speak with an experienced member of the Mass Torts team at Loncar and Associates as soon as possible, by using any of the links to the right or by phone at (800)-777-777.