Paxil is an antidepressant that belongs to a group of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s). Paxil is commonly used for the treatment of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Paxil and other SSRI's work to improve mood by restoring the balance of serotonin, a natural substance in the brain.
While Paxil helps alleviate depression in many patients, a 2005 study conducted by GlaxoSmithKline showed that Paxil was linked to twice as many birth defects as other antidepressants. Most of these birth defects are heart-related and can seriously impact an infant’s health and chances of survival. One of the most dangerous of these birth defects is PPHN or Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn.
PPHN occurs when a newborn's circulation system does not adapt properly to breathing outside the womb. While a fetus is in the womb, it gets its oxygen from its mother's placenta through the umbilical cords, so the lungs don’t need a high blood supply. To accommodate this, fetuses have high blood pressure in the lungs, and blood in the pulmonary artery is sent away from the lungs to the other organs through a fetal blood vessel.
When a baby is born and takes its first breaths, the blood pressure in their lungs falls and blood flow to the lungs increases. This allows oxygen and carbon dioxide to be exchanged. The blood is then returned to the heart and pumped back out to the body. The fetal blood vessel permanently closes. However, in babies with PPHN, the blood pressure in the lungs remains high and the fetal blood vessel stays open, keeping the blood directed away from the lungs.
PPHN is a life-threatening condition. Infants may require intubation, ventilation and even surgery. They are likely to spend their first months, and even their first year, in the hospital.
Other birth defects linked to Paxil include:
• Congenital Heart Defects
• Abdominal and cranial defects
• Difficulty breathing
• Withdrawal symptoms in the newborn