Having a baby is thought to be one of the happiest times in a womanâ€™s life. However, this is not necessarily true in all circumstances. Some woman are faced with a difficult decision when they are forced to decide between taking an anti-depressant to treat their clinical depression while they are pregnant and therefore risking possible birth defects, or risk a relapse in their depression.
A commonly prescribed anti-depressant drug is Zoloft (sertraline). This drug has been the topic of many studies and reports that state the seriousness of this situation. Although there are risks clearly outlined, many physicians are still prescribing Zoloft in situations where they believe that it is in the best interest of the mother.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has classified Zoloft as Pregnancy Category C, meaning that Zoloft can potentially cause harm to a developing fetus if it is used during pregnancy. A classification such as this means that in the clinical trials performed on animal fetuses, these animals experienced birth defects from the drugs. However, even if a drug does appear to have adverse effects in animal fetuses, it’s important to remember that animals do not always respond to medicines the same way that humans do. Therefore, a healthcare provider may still prescribe a pregnancy Category C medicine to a pregnant woman if he or she believes that the benefits to the woman outweigh the possible risks to the unborn child.
The Mayo Clinic states on their website that Zoloft has several risks and has been associated with Persistent pulmonary hypertension (PPHN) when taken during the last half of pregnancy; has been associated with septal heart defects; and has been associated with omphalocele. However, their recommendation is that it is an option during pregnancy. Even though it clearly states the risks, they believe these risks are extremely low and are rare conditions.
According to emedtv.com, a health information website, there have been reports of fetuses being exposed to Zoloft during the third trimester of pregnancy developing complications that require hospitalization, respiratory support, and/or tube feeding. These newborns experienced a number of symptoms, including: Difficulty breathing, Seizures, Lack of oxygen in the blood, Feeding difficulties, Tremors, Irritability, and/or Constant crying.
Many healthcare professionals believe that Zoloft should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the unborn child.
Furthermore it goes on to say that babies exposed to Zoloft late during pregnancy are at increased risk for developing persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN), such as stated by the Mayo Clinic. However, PPHN is associated with significant complications and even death and women who take SSRIs, including Zoloft, after week 20 of pregnancy have a six-fold increase of delivering a baby with PPHN. Many wonder if this is really a risk worth taking.