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Zoloft and Pregnancy: Is it Safe to Take Sertraline During Pregnancy?

taking zoloft while pregnant

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Choosing whether to stop or continue using Zoloft medicine during pregnancy is one of the most crucial decisions a woman must undertake. Depression that is left untreated can have numerous harmful effects on the health of the mother as well as the baby. However, consuming antidepressants during pregnancy could elevate the risk of complications for the unborn baby. It is important to weigh the pros and cons and evaluate the risks of using such drugs before arriving upon a final decision.

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Table of Contents

Is Zoloft Safe During Pregnancy?

Though various doctors claim that several antidepressants, particularly the SSRIs, are mostly safe for usage, there is an increased risk of developing birth defects and other complications when taken during pregnancy.
Being graded as a class “C” category drug by the U.S Food and Drug Administration, Zoloft has proven to cause significant harm when tested on animals. A study conducted on more 2000 pregnant women taking Zoloft, showed a link between the antidepressant and an elevated risk of developing birth defects. Though the research itself does not claim that the drug will trigger birth defects, it does, however, reveal an elevated risk of around 3 to 5 percent.

Another issue with taking doses of Zoloft during pregnancy is that the mother is at a high risk of developing various health complications if she stops taking the drugs immediately.

This could elevate the chances of a miscarriage, early labor, and preeclampsia. On the other hand, untreated depression could also lead to potentially serious health issues that could be harmful to the baby as well as the mother, depending upon the severity of the condition.

Can Women Take Antidepressants While Pregnant?

It is recommended to check the severity of the condition, evaluate the risks, compare the pros and cons, and check possible sertraline alternatives before taking this drug during pregnancy. Such antidepressants should only be used if the benefits outweigh the potential risks to the unborn baby. The best approach would be to consult a doctor and let them decide if the patient should start taking sertraline or not.

Side Effects of Using Zoloft During Pregnancy

Zoloft works by preventing the reabsorption of serotonin in the body and increasing the levels of the neurotransmitters responsible for improving the patient’s mood. Here is a list of common Zoloft adverse effects experienced by pregnant women on sertraline:

  • Nauseapregnant woman having an ache and calling on the phone
  • Headaches
  • Decreased Libido
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Irritation or anxiety
  • Lethargy
  • Blurred vision
  • Manic episodes
  • Memory problems
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Mood Swings
  • Sleeping problems

Zoloft and Pregnancy Risks

The packaging of Zoloft contains a warning label that states the use of this drug during pregnancy increases the chances of birth defects in pregnant women. Fetuses that have been exposed to the drug late in the third trimester have experienced severe complications requiring hospitalization. Here is a list of the possible side effects experienced by infants whose mothers have taken Zoloft for prolonged periods during pregnancy:

  • Respiratory issues
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Seizures
  • Cyanosis
  • Feeding difficulties
  • Tremors
  • Jitteriness
  • Temperature fluctuations
  • Apnea
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Hypertonia
  • Vomiting
  • Hypotonia
  • Tremors
  • Hyperreflexia

Birth Defects Associated with Zoloft

A Sertraline Birth Defect report produced in 1998 indicated an increase in the incidences of Zoloft birth defects being caused by the prolonged consumption of the drug in pregnant women. In 2004, a research conducted by Pfizer showed a significant link between Zoloft and heart defects in infants.
Taking Zoloft while pregnant can elevate the possibility of the fetus developing the following birth defects:

  • Septal Heart Defect
  • Omphaloceles
  • Craniosynostosis
  • Autism
  • Tetralogy of Fallot
  • Respiratory problems
  • Spina Bifida
  • Clubfeet
  • Cleft lip or palate

Zoloft Lawsuits for Birth Defects

Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against Pfizer since the year 2012, accusing the company for calling their SSRI drugs safe antidepressants while pregnant instead of warning them regarding the possible risks of congenital defects. The families that have been affected are asking for compensation for the medical bills of their children. Multiple surgeries are required for significant heart defects that can be quite expensive. Omphaloceles, on the other hand, might need extensive care for more than one year, along with treatment for ongoing problems.
The costs of these procedures can quickly add up, and so the affected families are stating that the company should have warned them beforehand. Pfizer has been asked by the FDA to alter the label of their Zoloft pregnancy category and add a warning related to the possible risks of heart defects in infants born to mothers taking the drug.

Is it Safe to Take Sertraline While Breastfeeding?

While children will be exposed to the drug via breast milk, the amount will be a lot less compared to the exposure that occurs within the uterus. Some doctors claim that it is safe to take Zoloft while breastfeeding, as little to no traces are found in the breast milk; however, studies claim otherwise. A study based on Zoloft and breastfeeding consisting of 337 cases shows that a high amount of this drug is found within the breast milk.
Since it elevates the risk of congenital defects when taken during pregnancy, consumption during lactation should be given equal importance. It is essential to thoroughly discuss the options with an experienced doctor and evaluate all the risks before deciding to take the drug during breastfeeding.

Advices For Pregnant Who Takes Zoloft

Pregnant woman visiting doctorIf one is pregnant and is taking Zoloft but are worried about the pregnancy risks, one must immediately consult doctor before quitting sertraline medication. Zoloft breastfeeding or pregnancy risks cannot be undermined, therefore seeking professional help is a must if one wants baby to remain unharmed during the entire process.
Depression can be quite tough to manage, and if left untreated, it could lead to fatal circumstances. In order to get appropriate care and treatment, it is recommended to find a professional rehab center that can help to get sertraline out of the system. A qualified rehab center can provide the emotional support to alleviate suffering, along with support group therapy to keep one engaged. They offer a wealth of facilities, therapies, and amenities to help the patient ensure long-term recovery.

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View Sources
Medically Reviewed By Michael Espelin APRN
Nena Messina

About Author

Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Nena Messina is a specialist in drug-related domestic violence. She devoted her life to the study of the connection between crime, mental health, and substance abuse. Apart from her work as management at addiction center, Nena regularly takes part in the educational program as a lecturer.


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