Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN)

The fetus receives oxygen that is delivered to it in the mother's blood. When persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) occurs, the lungs of the infant fail to assume their normal task of oxygenating the blood. Blood pressure in the lungs remains high, as it was in the womb, and blood is directed away from the lungs.

PPHN occurs rarely, but when it does, it is life threatening. The symptoms of PPHN include:

  • A bluish tinge to the skin, called cyanosis
  • An extra or abnormal heart sound, called a heart murmur
  • Fast heart rate
  • Low levels of oxygen in the blood, even when 100 percent oxygen is delivered to the infant
  • Rapid breathing
  • Respiratory distress which can be observed by the infant's flaring of the nostrils and grunting

Complications of PPHN in Newborns

Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn is a serious condition. The baby must have constant monitoring and treatment because the blood is not supplying enough oxygen to the body's tissues. Complications of PPHN may include:

  • Brain hemorrhage
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Bronchopulmonary dysplasia characterized by lungs that are scarred and stiff
  • Death
  • Developmental delays
  • Hearing problems
  • Heart failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Multiple organ damage
  • Need for a temporary feeding tube inserted into the nose or directly into the stomach
  • Neurological deficits
  • Seizures
  • Shock
  • Speech problems

Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn and SSRIs

PPHN generally occurs at the rate of one to two instances in 1,000 babies. In a 2006 study published in in the New England Journal of Medicine, PPHN was linked to the use of SSRIs late in pregnancy. In pregnant women who took SSRIs 20 weeks following conception, that rate rose about six-fold.

More recently, an announcement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December 2011 said that the 2006 information was based upon a single study. More current findings, the FDA said, are conflicting and therefore show an unclear relationship between PPHN and SSRIs.

"The FDA has reviewed additional study results and has concluded that, given the conflicting results from different studies, it is premature to reach any conclusions about a possible link between SSRI use in pregnancy and PPHN."

The FDA is updating SSRI drug labels to report the new study data and the conflicting results.

Brand names of SSRIs include Celexa®, Lexapro®, Luvox®, Luvox® CR, Paxil®, Prozac® and Zoloft®.

Contact a Prozac® Birth Defect Lawyer

If you took Prozac® during pregnancy and your baby was born with a birth defect, you should consult a Prozac® birth defect lawyer to find out if you qualify for compensation. To schedule a free review of your case, contact us today.

Side Effects

Infants who are exposed to Prozac® and other antidepressants during fetal development have an increased risk of suffering birth defects, including: