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Michael Monheit
Michael Monheit
Attorney • (215) 840-6573

Wellbutrin and Baby with Heart Defects

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The drug bupropion, sold under the brand name Wellbutrin, is a drug commonly used to treat depression. It helps to improve mood and feelings f well-being and restores balance to natural chemicals in the brain. In combination with other drugs, Wellbutrin is sometimes used to treat bipolar disorder. Wellbutrin has also been used by physicians to treat conditions other than mental illnesses however. In some cases, it is prescribed to patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and to decrease the cravings and nicotine withdrawal effects for people who are trying to quit smoking.

For many, Wellbutrin is a powerful drug that brings a sense of normalcy to life. But for pregnant women, it may be risky and some studies have linked use of Wellbutrin during pregnancy to serious birth defects. For example, a study published in 2010 examined data for more than 6,853 infants and found a positive association between bupropion use in early pregnancy and what are known as “left outflow tract heart defects” in the infant.

Congenital heart defects in general are the most common type of birth defect, affecting nearly 40,000 births in the United States each year. They are the leading cause of infant death to birth defects. Left outflow tract heart defects, the type of congenital heart defect linked to Wellbutrin, affects the flow of blood from the heart’s left chamber to the rest of the body. Typically, treatment requires surgical repair.

More research is needed to fully understand the effects that antidepressants, including Wellbutrin, have on the development of infants when the drug is taken during pregnancy. The CDC assists with this by providing information on the prevalence of birth defects in general—looking at how many people are effected, examining trends and patterns over time, evaluating prevention efforts, and helping create services for those affected. Until more is known, pregnant women need to be aware of the risks presented not just by the drug, but also ceasing use of the drug during pregnancy.