Paxil and Prozac linked to birth defects

A new government study on thousands of women has identified links between birth defects and older antidepressants such as Paxil and Prozac. However, the same study has cleared other widely used treatments of this class including Lexapro, Celexa, and Zoloft. Here, it must be mentioned that Zoloft, a drug manufactured by Pfizer, has been subject of a well known lawsuit involving birth defect claims.

The study along with all its findings was published in the popular journal BMJ (British Medical Journal) on Wednesday.


Previously, we have seen studies raising questions about antidepressants belonging to a drug class called the SSRIs or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. Those questions forced the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to issue a detailed safety warning in 2005; the organization warned people about using SSRIs during pregnancy.

During this new study, researchers representing the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tried to find out whether birth defects can be linked with all drugs of this class or just with some of them.

For that, the research team interviewed around 28,000 women and asked them about the kind of SSRIs they had any time between one month before getting pregnant and the third month of their pregnancy. To be more precise, the women were asked which drug they had during the mentioned period, Paxil, Prozac, Lexapro, Celexa or Zoloft. Then, the researchers analyzed which among those women had babies with birth defects.

The analyses showed that several popular antidepressants such Zoloft, Lexapro, or Celexa have no links with birth defects. Only two of the SSRIs studied by the researchers namely Paxil (generic name: paroxetine) and Prozac (generic name: fluoxetine) were found to be causing birth defects.

Birth defects were found to be 2 to 3.5 times more frequent among women, who had those two SSRIs during the early phase of their pregnancy, compared to those who didn’t take them at all.

While Prozac was found to be causing distortion of the baby’s skull, Paxil was primarily found to have links with a birth defect that cause the intestine of the newborn to protrude outside his/her body.

The researchers also found links between Paxil use and anencephaly in newborns. For those who don’t know: anencephaly is a condition marked by missing parts in the newborn’s skull and brain.