Zoloft during pregnancy

Zoloft is used to treat depression, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic disorder. Sertraline is the generic name of Zoloft. It belongs to the class of antidepressants called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). The risks that exposure to sertraline can have during pregnancy are discussed here. However, pregnant women should always consult their doctor before they start any new medication, particularly an antidepressant such as Zoloft. The Unites States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified Zoloft as pregnancy C category medicine. This means that this medicine has not been studied in pregnant women. Taking Zoloft during pregnancy could potentially harm the fetus developing in the womb. Doctors prescribe Zoloft for pregnant women only after weighing the benefits of this drug against the risks it can cause to the unborn baby.

Especially during the third trimester of pregnancy, Zoloft should not be taken as it can badly affect the unborn baby. The clinical studies carried out in animals show that taking Zoloft during pregnancy can cause harm to the fetus. Zoloft has not been studied in pregnant humans; but as a precaution, use of Zoloft while pregnant is not recommended. It is to be noted that medicines which have not been studied in pregnant women and animals also are given pregnancy category C rating. One more aspect which we should know is that animals and human beings are not responding to medicines in the similar manner. Therefore, a medicine causing harm to animals need not necessarily give ill effects in humans. This is the reason why some doctors still prescribe Zoloft for pregnant women even though it is a pregnancy category C medicine. It shows that these doctors believe that the benefits of Zoloft to pregnant women outweigh the possible risks it can cause to the unborn baby.

There are evidences that fetuses exposed to Zoloft during the third trimester of pregnancy have developed complications, requiring hospitalization, tube feeding and respiratory support. Then, the new born babies had a number of symptoms that included seizures, difficulty breathing, feeding difficulties, lack of oxygen in the blood, constant crying, irritability and tremors. It has also been found that babies exposed to Zoloft during pregnancy are at increased risk of developing Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension (PPHN). Significant complications are associated with PPHN and it may lead to death too. If women take SSRIs, of course including Zoloft, after the 20th week of pregnancy, they have a six-fold increase of risk of delivering a PPHN child. Also, the new born babies which suffer from withdrawal symptoms of this medicine need to be kept in a special care nursery until the withdrawal symptoms fade away. However, more studies need to be undertaken to determine if Zoloft during pregnancy increases the risk of birth defects.

If you are a pregnant woman or if you are planning to become pregnant while taking Zoloft, you should certainly talk to your doctor. Your doctor can weigh the benefits and risks arising out of Zoloft in you, especially in your current situation as a pregnant woman. Your doctor may advise you to adjust the dosage to the lower side or taper off this medicine by the time you reach the third trimester of pregnancy.

Sertraline has a half-life of 24 hours. This is the time it takes to eliminate one half of the drug from the body. Six days after stopping sertraline, most of the drug will be out of your system. Therefore, if you want to change your dosage of Zoloft, you should talk to your doctor before doing it. However, you should not stop it suddenly, as it can cause withdrawal symptoms. Your doctor can educate you on gradually tapering off this medicine.

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