Zoloft Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension

Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of Newborn (PPHN)

One of the most serious of known Zoloft birth defects is persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, also known as Zoloft PPHN. A mother whose child was born with PPHN may be eligible to seek compensation from drug maker Pfizer by filing a Zoloft lawsuit.

Zoloft, also known as sertraline, is an antidepressant in a family of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). Zoloft works by regulating amounts of serotonin in the brain, relieving the chemical imbalances that lead to conditions such as depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and premenstrual dysphonic disorder.

Some researchers have suggested that babies born to mothers taking an SSRI during pregnancy are 6 times more likely to develop PPHN than babies born to mothers who are not taking an antidepressant.

Zoloft PPHN interferes with proper blood circulation

PPHN, also known as persistent fetal circulation, occurs when a newborn baby’s circulation reverts to the circulation of a fetus, where much of the blood flow bypasses the lungs. As a result of PPHN, blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs becomes uncommonly high, and the right side of the heart is forced to work harder than usual. PPHN can result in low blood oxygen levels, circulatory disorders and respiratory problems.

While in the womb, the fetus’ lungs do not require a substantial blood supply because the fetus receives oxygen from the umbilical cords. Blood in the pulmonary artery is diverted to other organs through a specialized blood vessel called the ductus arteriosus.
 Under normal circumstances, when a newborn takes its first breaths after birth, blood pressure in the lungs decreases and blood flow to the lungs increases. Meanwhile, the ductus arteriosus narrows and ultimately closes for good in the first day of life.

In newborns with Zoloft PPHN, however, the ductus arterious stays open and blood pressure in the lungs stays abnormally high. The result is that blood continues to be diverted away from the baby’s lungs.

FDA warning about Zoloft PPHN

A 2006 FDA public safety alert about Zoloft birth defects specifically warned about the possibility of Zoloft PPHN, for which there is currently no cure.

As with many other Zoloft birth defects, PPHN can be life-threatening. If a proper amount of oxygen is not supplied to the body’s organs and tissues, the result can be shock, heart failure, brain hemorrhage, seizures, kidney failure, multiple organ damage, and even death. In some cases, however, the symptoms of Zoloft PPHN are reversible with intensive treatment.

Symptoms and treatment of Zoloft persistent pulmonary hypertension

The variety of treatments for PPHN all attempt to increase oxygen levels to the baby’s organs. These treatments include mechanical ventilation, assisted respiration through a mask, hood or tube inserted into the windpipe, or the inhalation of nitric oxide to contract lung blood vessels.

Symptoms of PPHN in a newborn include rapid breathing (also known as tachypnea), rapid heart rate, respiratory distress (this could include flaring nostrils and grunting), a bluish tint to the baby’s skin (called cyanosis), heart murmur, and low oxygen levels in the blood.

Long term effects of  PPHN include bronchopulmonary dysplasia (permanent damage to and hardening of the lungs), breathing problems, chronic seizures, developmental and neurological delays, and hearing problems.

Other Zoloft birth defects

In addition to Zoloft PPHN, other established Zoloft birth defects include heart defects, autism, cleft lip and palate, symptoms of drug withdrawal, and an imperforate anus, which occurs when the anal opening is missing or impeded. Mothers who believe that their child suffers from one or more of these Zoloft birth defects should consult an experienced Zoloft lawyer to find out if they are eligible to file a Zoloft lawsuit.