Prozac (fluoxetine) is included in a group of medications called Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) that work by boosting serotonin levels in the brain, resulting in the regulation of mood, sleep and appetite. These SSRIs have been linked to serious side effects. Among the reported Prozac side effects are an increased risk of Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN), congenital heart defects and withdrawal symptoms. Prozac is an antidepressant used to treat major depressive disorder, bulimia nervosa, obsessive-compulsive disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and panic disorder.

Prozac Birth Defects

Prozac heart birth defectsAccording to researchers, pregnant women who take antidepressants such as Prozac increase the risk of birth defects in their babies by more than half. Furthermore, women using SSRIs in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy—when many may be unaware they are expecting—were at a 40 percent greater risk of their baby suffering malformation. The risk of heart defects was 60 percent higher. The study, conducted by researchers in the US and Denmark, compared 1,054 women who took SSRIs during the first three months of pregnancy with 150,000 who were not prescribed them.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Prozac in 1998 and it became the most widely prescribed drug for depression on the market. However, two years before the FDA approval, a 1996 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that women taking Prozac during pregnancy were twice as likely to deliver a baby with three or more “minor abnormalities” and poorer than average neonatal adaptation.

Almost a decade later, in 2005, a Danish study indicated that pregnant women who take SSRI antidepressant medicines in early pregnancy may have an increased risk of giving birth to an infant with heart problems. In this study, infants exposed to SSRI antidepressants during the first 3 months of pregnancy had a 60 percent higher chance of developing a heart problem compared with infants whose mothers did not take SSRI antidepressants.

In 2004, Health Canada advised of potential adverse effects of SSRIs and other anti-depressants on newborns, including fluoxetine [Prozac]. The advisory was intended to increase awareness among mothers and physicians of the possible symptoms that may occur in the newborn, so that symptoms could be recognized and addressed immediately.

In May 2005, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, estimated in the Journal of the American Medical Association, that in any given year at least 80,000 pregnant women in the U.S. are prescribed SSRIs, with Prozac being the biggest seller.

Researchers from Denmark’s Aarhus University were surprised to find that taking certain antidepressants in the early stages of a pregnancy may lead to double, and in some cases triple, the risk of certain birth defects.  The study, published in the September 25th Online First issue of BMJ, tied the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) such as Prozac and Zoloft with a heart defect involving a piece of tissue that separates parts of the heart.  According to the study, taking Prozac doubled the risk of this defect, taking Zoloft more than tripled it and taking more than one SSRI pushed the risk of having a baby with this particular heart defect to nearly five times more likely.

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