Life Gets More Difficult For Infants With PPHN, A Paxil Side Effect

A specific type of lung and breathing problem found in newborns and generally diagnosed within 12 hours of birth is the Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension (PPHN). PPHN is one of the serious side effects that medical studies have recently associated with antidepressant drugs that belong to the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI), one of which is Paxil. Aside from PPHN, a clubbed foot is among the potential birth defects that Paxil causes.

Women who took SSRIs during their third trimester were six times more likely to deliver babies born with PPHN than those who didn’t take SSRIs during their third trimester, according to a New England Journal of Medicine study. A variety of problems in patients have been known to be caused by SSRI drugs which have even received an FDA “Black Box Warning” on the label for a risk of suicidal behavior for patients under 24 years old. Recently, birth defects have been identified as side-effects affecting children whose mothers took the drug during pregnancy.

The PPHN birth defect may not be common as it affects approximately just one in 700 births, however, it could cause serious short and long term problems. The oxygen needs of a developing baby in the womb are provided from the placenta through the umbilical cord. The pulmonary artery instead sends blood right back to the heart through a fetal blood vessel called the ductus arteriosis, bypassing the lungs. 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.

The baby’s circulatory system does not “switch over” in a baby with PPHN. The lungs continue to be bypassed while the ductus arteriosis remains open 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. When a baby’s mother has taken an SSRI drug during pregnancy, particularly later in pregnancy, this is almost certainly the cause, however, the exact cause of PPHN is unknown in many cases.

Previously, Paxil lawsuits have been filed because of the drugs potential to cause suicidal thoughts among 24 years old and below. This time, lawsuits are expected to be filed by mothers whose children were born with birth defects after they had taken Paxil without knowing of its harmful side effects on their babies.

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