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Sertraline, which is sometimes distributed under the brand name Zoloft®, is in a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that is used to treat depression. Clinical studies do not indicate a connection between normal use of sertraline and blood pressure changes in adults, although a combination of sertraline with L-tryptophan has been known to cause a condition that can affect blood pressure. In addition, a possible correlation between taking SSRIs during pregnancy and the occurrence of persistent pulmonary hypertension in the newborn (PPHN) has been found. Sertraline is prescribed for major depressive disorder and other types of mental disorders.
Studies of sertraline and its effects with normal use on patients did not substantiate any correlation between sertraline and blood pressure. In clinical studies, the percentage of people taking sertraline who reported a change in blood pressure was much the same as the percentage for those in a control group who took a placebo, or sugar pill with no drug. When taken in combination with L-tryptophan, which is used to treat bipolar affective disorder, there is a connection between sertraline and blood pressure. This combination of drugs has been known to cause a severe condition called serotonin syndrome. Symptoms of this condition include blood pressure changes as well as restlessness, elevated heart rate and hallucinations.
A 2006 study in the New England Journal of Medicine of SSRIs and their impact on pregnant women and their babies found a higher incidence of PPHN. According to this study the timing of exposure to SSRIs was key. For mothers who took SSRIs after the 20th week of pregnancy the incidence of PPHN was more than double that of the control group.
PPHN is a life threatening illness in newborn babies that causes the blood to move away from the lungs. The newborn can die since the blood is not oxygenated. Earlier studies of the effects of SSRIs on pregnant women did not find any correlation between this life threatening disease and taking SSRIs during pregnancy. Some experts say that the risks of PPHN must be weighed against the effects of depression on mothers and newborns.
Sertraline is prescribed for depression and works by helping to balance the level of serotonin in the brain. This drug is also prescribed for a number of other mental health conditions, including major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is also sometimes used to treat chronic pain and Alzheimer’s disease. Although there is not much evidence of a correlation between sertraline and blood pressure changes, the drug does have other common side effects that include dry mouth, difficulty sleeping, dizziness and headache.