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Zoloft Birth Defects

Zoloft Birth Defects: First-Trimester Use Causes Zoloft Birth Defects

Zoloft (Sertraline hydrochloride), an antidepressant prescription drug sold by the multinational pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer, has been linked to an increased risk for a range of cardiac and other birth defects. Zoloft birth defects include Anencephaly, Craniosynostosis, Omphalocele, Club Foot and Spina Bifida. Zoloft use during pregnancy may also lead to Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN).  Zoloft is classified as one of several Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants, all of which have been found to increase the risk of similar birth defects. The National Birth Defects Prevention Study, a project of the CDC, recently outlined groundbreaking data regarding birth defects caused by Zoloft and other SSRI antidepressants.  If the fetus is exposed to Zoloft during the first and third trimesters in utero, the risk of birth defects is thought to be particularly high.

Zoloft Birth Defects

Zoloft use has been discouraged for pregnant women due to evidence that Zoloft increases the risk of many different birth defects.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, which confirmed Zoloft's link to birth defects caused by the pregnant mother taking Zoloft prior to pregnancy or during the first and third trimesters. Conclusive results showed that Zoloft use specifically causes an increase in cardiac or congenital heart defects, but it may cause an even higher risk for other types of birth defects.

Of all the health problems Zoloft has been found to cause, those suffered by infants whose mother took Zoloft during pregnancy are the most extreme.  Tests of the levels of Setraline in the umbilical cord blood show that a fetus can be exposed to as much as one-third of the Zoloft level in the mother's bloodstream.  Zoloft is also dangerous when taken by breastfeeding mothers, as infants have been found to be exposed to Setraline in that fashion as well.  Cardiac birth defects have been most severe in infants who were exposed to Zoloft during the first trimester of pregnancy.

Zoloft Use Heightens Risk of Anencephaly

Anencephaly is a serious condition in which the neural tube, or the tissue around the spinal cord and brain, does not develop properly during the earliest period of fetal growth.  Neural tubes that are not closed lead to conditions such as the absence of a skull, the absence of the cerebral hemispheres and cerebellum portions of the brain, facial feature abnormalities and heart defects. Anencephaly is very rare, happening in only about 1 in 10,000 births.  Use of Zoloft by a pregnant mother may increase risk factors by 200% or more, as documented in 2007 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Craniosynostosis Risk Increases with Zoloft Use

Craniosynostosis is a congenital birth defect that causes the skull bones to fuse together prematurely.  Babies are normally born with separate skull bones, which allow for the brain to grow in the early childhood years.  Craniosynostosis results in an oddly-shaped head, but more significantly, requires major surgery to correct so that the infant does not experience problems related to brain swelling when the brain grows at its normal rate.

Omphalocele Birth Defects Increase with Zoloft Intake

Omphalocele is a circumstance where the umbilical muscles do not form properly, causing the intestine and abdominal muscles to stick out at the navel and grow outside of the umbilical cord.  Infants born with this problem must undergo major corrective surgery.  The New England Journal of Medicine published research in 2007 that indicated Zoloft use by the mother may double the chances of a baby being born with an omphalocele birth defect.

Other Zoloft Birth Defects

Club foot and spina bifida are birth defects that have also been found to be caused by Zoloft use during pregnancy.

Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN)

In addition to increasing the risk of a variety of birth defects, Zoloft can also cause problems in babies shortly after birth.  Newborns whose mother took Zoloft during their third trimester of pregnancy are at an increased risk for developing Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension.  This is a condition in which the normal circulatory transition that should take place when a baby is born fails to occur.

Pfizer Sued and Issued FDA Warning for Zoloft False Advertising

Zoloft is sold by Pfizer, a multi-national pharmaceutical conglomerate that has been sued by many U.S. states' Attorneys General offices, and has been issued several warning letters from the FDA based on accusations of false advertising. Zoloft was first approved in 1991 as an antidepressant, but since has been approved to treat social anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. Zoloft became the most popular antidepressant in the United States; in 2007, there were nearly 30 million people – or roughly ten percent of the population -- were taking Zoloft. 

More information on Zoloft birth defects can be found at The Onder Law Firm's Zoloft birth defects website at