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Study Confirms Link Between Paxil and Birth Defects


January 6, 2016 — Women who use the antidepressant Paxil in early pregnancy may be 23% more likely to have a baby with any type of birth defect, according to a new study.

The British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology published the conclusions of a systematic review of 23 studies involving women who used antidepressants in the first trimester.

They found that women who used Paxil in early pregnancy were more that twice as likely to have a baby with certain types of heart defects — including atrial septal defect (“hole in the heart”) and pulmonary atresia (right ventricular outflow obstruction).

The results confirm those of a study published just two months ago in the British Medical Journal. Researchers looked at data on 30,000 births in the United States and linked Paxil with the following defects:

  • Anencephaly: 3.2-fold higher risk
  • Atrial septal defect: 1.8-fold higher risk
  • Pulmonary atresia: 2.4-fold higher risk
  • Gastroschisis: 2.5-fold higher risk
  • Omphalocele: 3.5-fold higher risk

Researchers cautioned that the absolute risk was still low. For example, the baseline risk of anencephaly is just 2 babies per 10,000. Exposure to Paxil increased the estimated risk to 7 babies per 10,000.

The study had mixed conclusions on other antidepressants. Prozac in early pregnancy was linked to higher rates of heart defects and craniosynostosis, a skull defect. However, no risk of birth defects was seen in babies exposed to Zoloft, Celexa, or Lexapro.


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