Posted by Fiona Cole on April 7, 2011
One of the more complicated birth defects that has been connected to antidepressants such as Pristiq is persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, also known as PPHN. PPHN can present a serious challenge to the health of a newborn and long-term complications can arise. But fortunately, doctors now have a much better understanding of how newborn lungs function; in addition, developments in modern technology have greatly improved treatment outcomes for babies afflicted with PPHN.
When a baby is in the womb, their lungs are not required for oxygen. The placenta supplies all the oxygen the baby needs via the umbilical cord. Under normal circumstances, as soon as the baby is born, it will begin to breathe air and the baby’s lungs will kick into action. The baby’s circulatory system automatically switches modes of oxygen collection — from being in the womb, in fluid, to being in the outside world, breathing air.
When a baby suffers from PPHN, this “switching over” does not occur. The flow of blood continues to bypass the lungs. This means that although the baby is technically breathing, the oxygen in the air is not reaching the baby’s blood stream. This oxygen deprivation in turn causes stress to the baby’s system as the organs are not being nourished adequately.
A central part of treating PPHN is to increase the delivery of oxygen to the newborn’s lungs via an oxygen tube. This does the job of temporarily breathing for the baby, while greatly boosting the baby’s lungs, organs and circulatory system. Tests and monitoring allow the doctor to track the baby’s response to the treatment. Additional treatments, and sometimes surgery, are required in more serious cases.
PPHN is a potentially very serious condition, but in many cases, it is reversible. Longer-term effects can linger, so it is important to work closely with a specialist in developing an aftercare plan. The baby may continue to need monitoring for nutritional intake and development issues, such as speech and hearing difficulties.
The survival rates for babies born with PPHN used to be low. But, according to The Children’s Hospital, medical advancements mean that now more than 4 out of 5 babies with PPHN survive, and only about 1 in 5 of the surviving newborns will “experience long-term physical or developmental complications.”