Paxil and birth defects

Noble McIntyre on April 8, 2014

Depression is very real illness, and it’s one suffered by millions of Americans. For some, the best way to treat it is through medication, and one of the most popular is Paxil, also known as paroxetine. While Paxil can be effective in alleviating the symptoms of depression, it can be very dangerous to a pregnant woman’s unborn child.

As far back as 2005, the FDA has been advising women against taking Paxil in pregnancy. A major study around that time indicated that the risk of major birth defects was twice as high in babies born to mothers taking Paxil as for other antidepressants. Most of the defects were heart-related, such as ventricular septal defects (holes in between the heart’s two pumping chambers). As well, the studies indicated that mothers who took Paxil during the first trimester of pregnancy were one to two times as likely to have a baby with a cardiac defect than mothers who did either took a different antidepressant or who did not take antidepressants, at all.

Even in the third trimester of pregnancy, babies born to mothers who have taken antidepressants including Paxil are reported to have difficulty breathing, turning blue, seizures, trouble regulating body temperature, feeding problems, vomiting, low blood sugar, floppiness, stiffness, tremors, shakiness, irritability or constant crying. As well, some premature births have been associated with the use of Paxil.

It should be noted, however, that the FDA has said that in some cases, the risks associated with a woman’s going off Paxil can outweigh the risks to the baby. If you become pregnant while taking Paxil, talk to your doctor before making any changes to your medication. The doctor can help you evaluate your risks based on your specific situation.

But, if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, what are your options? Although Paxil can have negative effects both for pregnancy and conception, so can anxiety. Some doctors would argue that intense anxiety can affect your chances of conception and contribute to the incidence of miscarriage. Anecdotes from Paxil users indicate that for most people, quitting “cold turkey” doesn’t work and is not advisable. If you are taking Paxil and are considering becoming pregnant or are already pregnant, consult with your physician to determine the best way to wean off the medication. But, if you suffer from depression, it’s essential that you continue some treatment, even while pregnant. If you don’t, you might not have the energy to take good care of yourself or your baby, or you could fall into old habits that would be detrimental to your baby’s health. The FDA has indicated that tricyclic antidepressants like Pamelor, as well as some SSRIs (like Celexa, Prozac and Zoloft) and Wellbutrin (which is also used for smoking cessation) can be safe during pregnancy.

If you’re suffering from depression and are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk to your doctor about the risks, benefits and alternatives to Paxil or any other drug you might be taking. If you believe that your baby was harmed because you were taking Paxil during your pregnancy, we can help. The McIntyre Law team is representing people in Paxil and other drug lawsuits, as well as for other kinds of birth injuries. If you or a loved one has been affected by any of these issues, call us today at 1 (877) 917-5250 for a free consultation.

002 by Michael Bentley, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  Michael Bentley


U.S. Food and Drug Administration


Noble McIntyre

Noble McIntyre is the senior partner and owner of McIntyre Law who focuses primarily on drug litigation and catastrophic injury cases. He is currently representing clients injured by the drugs Paxil, Levaquin and testosterone therapy drugs and by clients affected by oil field injuries. His goal has and continues to be to work diligently on behalf of his clients to achieve the highest and best result for his clients’ injuries while maintaining professionalism and abiding by all ethical standards of his profession. Read more about Noble McIntyre.

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