Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn is a life-threatening disorder in which the newborn’s arteries to the lungs remain constricted after delivery, limiting the amount of blood flow to the lungs and therefore the amount of oxygen into the bloodstream. Newborns who have PPHN are typically full-term or near-term infants who are born without associated congenital abnormalities, yet present after birth with severe respiratory failure. Babies born with this condition often require intubation and mechanical ventilation. Despite this treatment, 10 to 20 percent of affected infants do not survive.
The connection between PPHN and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors — a class of antidepressants used in the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorders and several other conditions — was first reported in the scientific literature in 1996. That year, Dr. Christina Chambers and several of her colleagues performed a case-controlled study of women on Prozac and discovered that infants born to women who took Prozac late in their pregnancy had a host of breathing difficulties, including PPHN. See Christina D. Chambers et al., “Birth Outcomes in Pregnant Women Taking Fluoxetine,” N. Engl. J. Med. 1996; 335; 14: 1010-1015.
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