Is It Safe to Take Zoloft during Pregnancy?

Zoloft, also known Sertraline, is an antidepressant developed and manufactured in 1990 by Pfizer. It has been marketed as a safer alternative than Prozac and other competitor drugs because it has fewer side effects and withdrawal symptoms.

However, expectant mothers or those planning to get pregnant might want to talk to their doctor about taking Zoloft because there have been reports of maternal toxicity and birth defects associated with exposure to the antidepressant.

Can you take Zoloft during pregnancy?

That depends.

And here are reasons why

Zoloft has been linked to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

This is the most recent side effect that has been linked to the antidepressant. According to Professor Anick Berard of the University of Montreal, “Taking antidepressants during the second or third trimester of pregnancy almost doubles the risk […] autism by age 7.” Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than girls.

Zoloft has been linked to birth defects

There were associations found between birth defects and Zoloft use during pregnancy in reports of over 2000 pregnancies exposed to the antidepressant during the first trimester. Most studies, however, do not confirm that pregnant women taking Sertraline are more likely to have a baby with birth defects than women who don’t.

There are associations, but there’s no proof that taking Zoloft increases the possibility of birth defects happening above the 3-5% background risk.

Zoloft may cause withdrawal symptoms in the baby after birth

Say you’re allowed to take antidepressants throughout your pregnancy. If you took one at the time of delivery, your baby will experience withdrawal symptoms, such as vomiting, constant crying, irritability, altered sleep patterns, difficulty eating and regulating body temperature, jitteriness, and increased muscle tone.

Some newborns may experience breathing problems as a side effect. Most symptoms will go away within two weeks of age, but some babies may need special care for several days.

Zoloft is associated with other birth problems

Some studies suggest that the use of SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) during pregnancy can lead to complications. As one of the SSRIs, Zoloft is believed to contribute to low birth weight and premature delivery.

Studies also suggest that mothers who take SSRIs during the second half of the pregnancy put their baby at higher risk for pulmonary hypertension. The possibility of this happening, however, is small. Nonetheless, expectant mothers should inform their obstetrician if they decide to take Sertraline at some point during their pregnancy.

Zoloft may have long-term learning effects

Further studies may be required to prove that Sertraline has long-term effects on behavior and learning, but one study found such a case where children scored lower on motor skills than other kids whose mothers did not take SSRIs during pregnancy. But because the study does not refer to Zoloft directly, more studies are needed.

When it comes to breastfeeding concerns, however, Zoloft is considered safe to use. Although it will be excreted through breast milk, the amount is almost negligible. Numerous studies showed that only about 0.5% of the average weight-adjusted dose is contained in breast milk. It has a very low or no significant transfer rate, making it safe to use when breastfeeding.

Because depression can have a major effect on expectant mothers, the decision to stop using Zoloft should be made with the advice of a doctor or obstetrician. This is especially because there are withdrawal symptoms that may occur, regardless of how few.

On average, Zoloft has a half-life of 26 hours and will be out of your system six days after stopping use. Any changes in the dosage should be discussed with a healthcare provider.

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