Effexor may not be safe for pregnant women. Though studies are inconclusive, premature birth, low birth weight, and birth defects are possible if the antidepressant is taken during pregnancy.
In some cases, the benefits of the medication may outweigh the potential risks. A pregnant woman should only take Effexor under the direct supervision of her physician who has full knowledge of her pregnancy.
Effexor and Pregnancy
Effexor is an antidepressant medication in the serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) class. The prescribing information for Effexor (venlafaxine) warns that the medication has the potential to harm a fetus and should only be taken during pregnancy under the direction and indication of a medical professional.
Depression in a mother can also be harmful to pregnancy and an unborn baby. Your doctor can help you weigh the risks versus the potential gains.
Effexor is categorized as a Class C medication, which means that it has been tested on animals and their reproductive systems and has been shown to be potentially harmful.
No human trials or studies have been corroborated for Class C medications, including Effexor. Small-scale studies and limited information have shown Effexor to have potential risks to a fetus, however.
If you have been taking Effexor, you and your doctor will discuss the risks of the medication and how best to manage your depression during pregnancy.
Hazards of Use During Pregnancy
Generally speaking, antidepressants should only be used by pregnant women when they are absolutely needed to manage depressive symptoms.
Effexor is initially given in the lowest doses possible. It is then increased as needed for weeks to months to control depression.
If you are pregnant or considering becoming pregnant, discuss the dosage and necessity of Effexor with your doctor. The lowest possible dose that manages symptoms is generally considered optimal.
It is possible that Effexor can nearly double a woman’s potential for miscarriage.
It May Also Result in the Following Congenital Disabilities:
- Respiratory issues
- Heart defects
- Persistent pulmonary hypertension
- Cleft palate or lip
- Defects of the abdominal wall
- Skull deformities
Additional information indicates that the risk of the above when taking Effexor during pregnancy is low — between three and five percent.
Taking Effexor into the third trimester may result in premature birth and the possibility for withdrawal symptoms in the infant. These can include jitteriness, disrupted sleep patterns, irritability, tremors, eating difficulties, breathing issues, and increased muscle tone, which may persist for a few days to three weeks.
Based on studies done on rats, there is the possibility of disruption in the serotonergic system of babies born to mothers who took Effexor while pregnant.
Women may have decreased weight when taking Effexor during pregnancy.
Discontinuing Effexor Safely
Taking Effexor in the third trimester can be the most potentially harmful. Discuss the possibility of safely discontinuing the medication before that point with your doctor.
Effexor is associated with difficult and even potentially harmful withdrawal symptoms, especially during pregnancy. As a result, the medication should not be stopped suddenly. It should be tapered off slowly in a controlled manner to minimize the odds for emotional and physical withdrawal symptoms.
- Mood swings
- Dysphoric mood (uneasiness)
- Increased depression
- Dry mouth
- Sleep disturbances, including nightmares
- “Shock-like” sensations in the brain
Effexor that is taken medically in lower doses for shorter periods may be tapered off safely under the direction of your doctor. Loved ones should be instructed to keep an eye out for behavioral changes and mood swings to ensure that the dosage remains safe and stable.
Weighing the Risks
Effexor during pregnancy does carry potential risks, but so does untreated depression. Decreased fetal growth, premature birth, low birth weight, postpartum depression, and a heightened risk for relapse of depressive symptoms after birth are all potential risks of discontinuing a necessary antidepressant medication during pregnancy.
If you decide to discontinue a medically necessary antidepressant medication, talk to your doctor about other methods to manage your depression. There are other medications that may be less potentially risky as well as therapeutic, supportive, and holistic measures that can be beneficial in managing depression.
Mayo Clinic publishes that depression can result in pregnancy difficulties, both prenatal problems and postpartum issues. It is important to discuss any potential medication changes with your doctor before making them.
The decision to take Effexor or any antidepressant during pregnancy is a personal one. You and your doctor should decide together what is right for you and your baby.