Paxil Birth Defects

By Dr. Emily Kensington

Research suggests an increased risk of Paxil birth defects for pregnant women who take Paxil during pregnancy. (Read this article about Paxil and pregnancy).

According to two different studies, women who took Paxil during pregnancy were one and a half to two times more likely to have a baby with heart defects compared to women taking other antidepressants and women in the general population.

Other studies have shown a link between taking Paxil during pregnancy and a serious condition called PPHN (persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn), abdominal malformations, and cranial malformations.

Heart Defects

In December 2005, the FDA issued a warning regarding the increased risks of Paxil birth defects when taken during the first trimester of pregnancy. Specifically, the studies showed the heart defects were mostly atrial and ventricular septal defects which are characterized by holes in the walls of the heart chambers. If severe enough, they may require surgery.


The New England Journal of Medicine published a study linking Paxil and PPHN (persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn). The study concluded that women who used Paxil after week 20 of pregnancy were six times more likely to give birth to a baby with PPHN.

PPHN is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. In addition, babies with PPHN frequently suffer brain damage, hearing damage, speech deficits, developmental delays, and other neurological and cognitive deficits.

Other Complications

Other possible Paxil reactions can include difficulties with respiration, seizures, vomiting, low blood sugar, tremors, and agitation.


For pregnant women, the FDA has mandated a level D warning which means that studies done in pregnant women have shown risks to the fetus. In England, it is not recommended for pregnant women to take SSRI antidepressants.

As a result, if you become pregnant while taking Paxil consult with your doctor in order to discuss your options.

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