Zoloft During Pregnancy

Zoloft, marketed by Pfizer, is also known as Sertraline, and is sold as an antidepressive drug, claiming as it does to reduce (Pfizer’s quote) “serotonine imbalance.”

However, according to PloS Medicine, a peer-reviewed medical publication, there is no scientific evidence supporting the claim that such an imbalance exists, let alone causes depression. The FDA takes a similar stance, viewing the side effects of Zoloft with some little alarm, particularly in female patients using Zoloft in pregnancy.

Pregnant women, as the FDA reports in a July 2006 advisory about the use of antidepressants during pregnancy, show two alarming tendencies using Zoloft.  The first is the “potential risk of relapsed depression” after the pregnant woman stops the medication while her pregnancy is ongoing.  The women who did so were “five times more likely to have a relapse of depression during pregnancy.”

Is it safe to take Zoloft during pregnancy?

The other possibility for women using Zoloft during pregnancy is a great deal more serious.  The FDA found that “1 to 2 babies per 1000 develop PPHN after birth.”  PPHN is persistent pulmonary hypertension, a condition of high blood pressure in the infant’s lungs that shortens or sometimes nearly cuts off the oxygen supply to the bloodstream.

The children thus need intensive medical care a few days after they emerge from the womb.  More alarmingly, “PPHN was six times more common in babies whose mothers took an SSRI depressant [such as Zoloft] after the 20th week of pregnancy.”  In addition, the FDA found that “exposure to the drug [such as Zoloft] in the first trimester may [lead to] increased risk of cardiac birth defects.”  (fda.gov)

More alarming still, the newborn may develop heart defects or similar conditions if breast-fed, as the mother’s milk may contain traces of Zoloft; the mother must wait at least 12 hours after ingesting Zoloft before feeding, and she and her physician may need to work out feeding alternatives such as formula.

Finally, if a pregnant woman is already using Zoloft for depression, the FDA cautions that she “should not stop any antidepressant without consulting [her] physician.”  There have been severe Zoloft withdrawal symptoms for some patients, including heart palpitations, fainting and dizzy spells, edema (swelling of the extremities) and possible arrhythmia (erratic heartbeat).  A doctor’s guidance and cessation program is definitely indicated.

Consult your medical professional for more information about Sertraline/Zoloft’s use during pregnancy; we also urge an immediate consultation for patients, pregnant or not, wishing to cease use of the drug.