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Brett Emison
Brett Emison
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PPHN, PFC, and SSRI Drugs (Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Etc.)

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Fortunately, most people do not know what the acronyms in this title mean. To many readers, these acronyms will be only gibberish letters. However, far too many mothers and children know exactly what they mean.

SSRI: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are among the most prescribed antidepressants and include drugs such as Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Symbyax, Celexa, Cymbalta, Effexor and Lexapro. SSRI drugs have been known to cause a variety of problems in patients and have even received an FDA “Black Box Warning” on the label for a risk of suicidal behavior for patients under 24 years old. More recently, a new set of side-effects have been identified affecting children whose mothers took the drug during pregnancy.

PPHN: Persistent pulmonary hypertension refers to a specific type of lung and breathing problem, found in newborns, which is generally diagnosed within 12 hours of birth. While this birth defect is not common (approximately one in seven-hundred births), it can cause serious short-term and long-term problems.

In the womb, a developing baby’s oxygen needs are provided from the placenta through the umbilical cord. The pulmonary artery bypasses the lungs and instead sends blood right back to the heart through a fetal blood vessel called the ductus arteriosis. After birth, when the baby takes her first breaths, the ductus arteriosis normally permanently closes and the pulmonary artery begins pumping blood through her lungs and throughout the rest of the circulatory system.

PFC: Persistent fetal circulation. In a baby with PPHN, the baby’s circulatory system does not “switch over.” The ductus arteriosis remains open and the lungs continue to be bypassed, resulting in oxygen deficient blood being circulated throughout the body. Although the baby is breathing, she is being deprived of oxygen because her lungs are “out of the loop”, which can severely damage the lungs and other organs.

Relating PPHN and PFC to SSRI Medications

A New England Journal of Medicine study found that women who took SSRIs during their third trimester were six times more likely to deliver babies born with persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) than those who didn’t take SSRIs during their third trimester.

In the past, approximately fifty-percent of babies diagnosed with PPHN died, but with advanced treatments, that number has been lowered to less than twenty percent. Another twenty-percent have long-term physical and developmental difficulties. In many cases, the exact cause of PPHN is unknown, however when a baby’s mother has taken an SSRI drug during pregnancy, particularly later in pregnancy, this is almost certainly the cause.

Even though significant strides have been made in treating PPHN, it remains a serious birth defect. Even after treatment, the baby can be susceptible to heart failure, brain hemorrhage, seizures, kidney failure, or organ damage – sometimes the condition is even fatal. Babies who survive PPHN sometimes have long-term breathing difficulties, seizures, developmental disorders and hearing loss.

In addition to the problems mentioned above, a small number of children, teens and young adults (up to age 24) who took antidepressants like Flueoxetine (Prozac) during clinical studies became suicidal. Prozac has been used for years to treat depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, some eating disorders, and panic attacks, even alcoholism, ADD, sleeping disorders, Tourette’s syndrome and a selection of others.

For more information, women or expectant mothers taking SSRI medication should discuss these risks with their doctors and consult a Medication Guide that is available from the FDA website.

[More on SSRI Birth Defects]

[More on Dangerous Drugs]

(c) Copyright 2011 Brett Emison