Zoloft and Birth Defects

What is the relationship between Zoloft and birth defects?

Zoloft is an antidepressant medication used by millions of Americans to treat the symptoms of depression and other mood challenges. Known generically as sertraline hydrochloride, Zoloft is within the class of pharmaceuticals known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which boost serotonin levels in the brain. Zoloft is among the most popular antidepressants in theUnited States, with more than 27 million prescriptions dispensed. Among those patients using Zoloft are women of child-bearing age who are or plan to become pregnant. In fact, Pfizer, the manufacturer of Zoloft, has actively marketed its product as a treatment for premenstrual syndrome and the hormonal changes during pregnancy.

The use of the drug by pregnant women has raised alarms, however, because medical evidence indicates that sertraline can pass through the placental barrier and adversely affect fetal growth. The link between Zoloft use and birth defects is well-established, though Pfizer has consistently downplayed the risks. The company’s own preclinical animal studies conducted before the drug was approved by the FDA in 1991 reportedly showed significant harm to fetuses when Zoloft was administered during pregnancy. There are a number of birth defects linked to Zoloft use, including infant mortality, persistent pulmonary hypertension in the newborn (PPHN), and cardiac malformations. Many parents, with the assistance of Zoloft lawyers, have sought recovery for their children injured by the drug.

Cardiac Consequences of Zoloft Use

In June 2007, a New England Journal of Medicine study revealed that that the risk of cardiac defects in babies whose mothers took Zoloft during pregnancy was 50 percent higher than babies not exposed to sertraline. Cardiac malformations associated with Zoloft exposure include several life-threatening conditions that require significant medical intervention:

  • Transposition of the great arteries
  • Ventricular septal defects (VSD)
  • Atrial septal defects (ASD)
  • Hypoplastic left or right heart syndrome
  • Aortic and ventricular outflow tract obstruction defects
  • Patent ductus arteriosus
  • Persistent pulmonary atresia

Developmental Birth Defects Associated with Zoloft

In addition to significant circulatory and cardiac disorders, Zoloft has also been shown to cause a range of limb and body malformations in a growing fetus. These can leave a newborn with permanently disabling deformations such as:

  • Anencephaly (an absence of a large part of the brain or skull)
  • Limb deformations
  • Spina bifida
  • Craniosynostosis (closed or fused bones on infant’s skull)
  • Omphalocele (defect in which the intestines and liver remain outside the abdomen)

Timing of Zoloft Use and Birth Defects May Be Related

The risks of developing several of the most serious birth defects associated with Zoloft, such as septal heart defects and PPHN, appear to be higher when the drug is used during the last trimester of pregnancy. If you or your infant has suffered injury due to exposure to Zoloft, consulting with experienced Zoloft lawyers may help you determine your best options for recovery.