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Pregnant women urged to avoid Paxil

DECEMBER 2010

A group of US obstetricians said that pregnant women who are pregnant, or who are thinking of becoming pregnant, should avoid taking the antidepressant, Paxil, because of the possible risk of birth defects in the child.

This opinion was issued by the obstetric practice committee of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. It comes almost a year after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline had reclassified the drug because of studies in pregnant women showed that the drug poses a risk to the fetus.

At the time, the FDA said that two studies of pregnant women who were taking Paxil during their first trimester showed that their babies had heart defects at a rate that is almost twice the norm.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also said the decision whether to treat pregnant women with SSRIs (such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Lexapro, as well as Paxil) should be considered on an individual basis.

Doctors also said that SSRI exposure late in pregnancy has been associated with short-term complications in newborns, as well.

This recent finding further supports earlier studies of pregnant women, which found a significant risk of birth defects, problems, and complications associated with Paxil during the late stages of pregnancy.

"What we found was that [among] pregnant women who use Paxil through pregnancy until birth, their offspring are more likely to have several stormy weeks at infancy," says Dr. Gideon Koren, study author and director of the Motherisk program at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

The opinion appeared in the December 2010 issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

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Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated July 2016.

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