Prenatal Exposure to Paxil and Similar Drugs Increase the Risk of Birth Defects
Paxil is a medication prescribed for various conditions including depression and anxiety in pregnancy. The Food and Drug Administration requires the maker of Paxil to include in its product information that epidemiological studies have shown that infants exposed to this drug in the first trimester of pregnancy have an increased risk of congenital malformations, particularly cardiovascular malformations.
How much of that information is communicated to women who are planning to become pregnant or who are already pregnant?
A recent case report published in the Italian Journal of Pediatrics illustrates the potential dangers of prenatal exposure to the class of drugs known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). The case report involves twins born at 33 weeks gestation who were exposed to Paxil during the pregnancy. According to the report the babies showed cardiovascular malformations and facial deformities. The report stressed the need for further research on the risks of prenatal exposure to SSRIs and the mechanisms by which these drugs can harm unborn children. Despite the need for further studies (suggesting a lack of scientific knowledge), doctors will continue to prescribe these drugs to pregnant woman with potentially devastating consequences.
Due to the fact that exposure during the first trimester poses increased risks, women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant should discuss with their health care provider, all medications they are taking and the relative risks of those medications to their unborn child.