Studies Link Prozac and Birth Defects
By Nathan D. Williams, staff writer
Prozac, which is also known generically as fluoxetine, was by the FDA in 1987 to treat symptoms of depression. It has been prescribed to over 54 million people since its introduction. Prozac belongs to a family of drugs known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRI.
These type of medications help address chemical imbalances in the brain that cause depression, anxiety, panic or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
A few years after Prozac’s release onto the market, devastating side effects like suicidal thoughts and violent behavior started coming to light. In recent years though, an increasing number of studies show that Prozac also certain birth defects. Although several lawsuits making this claim have been filed, there have been no settlements.
However, Prozac creator Eli Lilly has paid out millions for patients affected by suicidal thoughts or violent behavior.
Birth defects caused by taking Prozac
Some of the birth defects believed to be linked to Prozac include:
Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN) – this condition is characterized by the blood vessels constricting in the lungs, which leads to increased pressure on the pulmonary artery. A published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed infants whose mothers took Prozac were 6 times more likely to have PPHN.
Heart defects – characterized by a hole in the heart that leads to poor circulation and a heart that has to work harder, this birth defect often times requires open-heart surgery to address it. A from Finland published in Obstetrics & Gynecology showed that taking Prozac during pregnancy doubles the risk of this birth defect. Another published in the British Medical Journal found that using more than one SSRI during the first stage of pregnancy quadrupled the risk of septal defects. Specific types of septal defects include Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) and Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD).
Omphalocele – a defect that is present at birth (i.e. congenital) in which the abdominal wall is so thin the intestines and other organs stick out of the belly button. A thin layer of tissue is all that separates the intestines from the open air.
Craniosynostosis – another congenital birth defect that causes sutures on the baby’s head to close too early. Sutures connect the individual skull bones together. If they close too early, the baby can suffer from a misshapen skull.
According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 14 to 23 percent of women will suffer from depression during their pregnancy. Prozac continues to be a popular option, but in light of these studies and potential lawsuits, many professionals are now recommending pregnant women seek out another option for treating depression.