Zoloft is one of the most popular antidepressants in the country — more than 37 million prescriptions for the drug are filled every year. However, Zoloft side effects can have a terrible outcome on pregnancy and can expose the baby to certain serious risks.
- Zoloft Side Effects: Pregnancy and Mental Health
- Zoloft Side Effects: What is Zoloft’s Side Effects on Pregnancy?
- Birth Defects Linked to Zoloft Side Effects
- Zoloft Side Effects Lawsuit
- What should I do if I’m pregnant and taking Zoloft?
Zoloft Side Effects: Pregnancy and Mental Health
We’ve talked before about how pregnancy can be hard on your emotional and mental well-being in addition to being hard on your body. So it’s not hard to see why many pregnant women have been turning to medications like Zoloft, side effects and all.
These conditions are common, affecting tens of millions of Americans. Women are twice as likely to develop depression as men, and most cases develop between the ages of 25 and 44. Depression and other mental health conditions are commonly treated with therapy and, in many cases, medication. In fact, a recent study found that 25% of women in the U.S. take medication for a mental health condition.
If you’re taking antidepressants and get pregnant, you’ll need to work with your doctor to figure out the best way to proceed. If you are taking a medication like Zoloft, side effects of the drug could be bad for your baby. The medications you take while pregnant can affect your baby, but that has to be balanced against what you need to stay healthy. You and your doctor can work together to decide whether antidepressant medications are right for you during those 40 weeks.
Many of these types of medications simply haven’t been tested in pregnant women, so their safety is unknown. One antidepressant in particular, however, has been linked to serious birth defects — Zoloft.
Zoloft Side Effects: What is Zoloft’s Side Effects on Pregnancy?
Zoloft (sertraline) is a type of “SSRI,” or “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor.” These drugs, like Zoloft, are thought to work by preventing your body from reabsorbing serotonin, increasing your levels of that neurotransmitter and improving your mood. SSRIs are the most popular type of antidepressant in the country.
Common Zoloft side effects may include:
- Zoloft Side Effects #1: nausea
- Zoloft Side Effects #2: weight change
- Zoloft Side Effects #3: agitation or restlessness
- Zoloft Side Effects#4: decreased libido
- Zoloft Side Effects #5: headache
- Zoloft Side Effects #6: drowsiness
- Zoloft Side Effects #7: gastrointestinal problems
One of the worst Zoloft side effects — birth injury in children born to women who took the drug while pregnant.
Birth Defects Linked to Zoloft Side Effects
In 1998, a Pfizer (the maker of the drug) report included a dozen reports of birth injury that may have been linked to their mothers’ Zoloft use. In 2014, a Pfizer researcher showed an association between Zoloft side effects and septal heart defects, a disorder that causes holes in the baby’s heart. She also found a link to omphaloceles, a birth defect that causes the baby’s intestines or organs to form outside the belly.
Zoloft Side Effects: Septal Heart Defects
The most noted Zoloft side effects is Septal heart defects. Small septal heart defects may close on their own, but large ones affect the body’s ability to circulate oxygenated blood. That puts a strain on the baby’s heart and lungs and may cause permanent damage to the blood vessels. It may also affect the baby’s ability to grow and develop normally. Large septal defects need to be closed with open heart surgery, usually performed when the baby is still very young.
Zoloft Side Effects: Omphaloceles
The worst Zoloft side effects is omphaloceles. Small omphaloceles, where only a small bulge of organs protrudes from the baby’s belly, may be treated by gently and slowly pushing the organs back into the belly over a period of time. Once the organs are all the way back inside the belly, a surgeon will close the hole in the belly.
Larger omphaloceles require more long-term treatment. Because of the abnormal development, there may not be room in the baby’s abdomen for all of the organs to fit at once. In that case, surgeons use a technique called “paint and wait.” They’ll coat the organs in an antibiotic cream as your baby’s belly grows around it. Once there’s enough skin to cover the organ sac, surgeons will wrap an elastic band over the organs, which pushes the organs into place over time.
The whole process can take up to a year, after which a surgeon will close the hole.
Zoloft Side Effects Lawsuit
Thousands of families have filed lawsuits against Pfizer for Zoloft side effects since 2012, alleging that the drug company knew about the potential risk of birth defects and failed to warn them. They’re seeking compensation for their children’s medical care — congenital heart defects may require multiple expensive surgeries and omphaloceles may require a year or more of care, plus treatment for any ongoing issues.
All of those costs can add up quickly, and the families are claiming that Pfizer should have warned them about the risks of Zoloft side effects. In late 2015, the FDA asked Pfizer to change its label to include a warning about congenital heart defects in children born to mothers that took Zoloft, but potential changes are still in a draft phase.
If you took Zoloft while pregnant and your child was born with a birth defect, you should contact an experienced birth injury attorney to learn about your legal rights and options. Safe Birth Project may be able to help.
What should I do if I’m pregnant and taking Zoloft?
If you’re taking Zoloft or any other antidepressant, you should consult your doctor immediately; do not stop taking any medication without talking to your doctor first. Depression can be difficult to manage without medication, and you’ll have to work with your doctor, your therapist, and the rest of your support system to determine what treatment options will work best for you.
Ask your doctor about Zoloft side effects and pregnancy and whether a treatment change is an option for you.