Effexor During Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

by on May 11, 2012

Can Pregnant Women Take Effexor?

Effexor (Venlafaxine) is a Pregnancy Category C medication. It means that this drug could potentially cause harm on the unborn child when taken by pregnant women, more particularly during the last trimester of pregnancy.

Although there are no studies conducted on pregnant women, animal studies suggest that exposure to this drug can cause adverse effects on the fetus. Studies conducted on rat and rabbit samples suggest that Effexor increases the risk for miscarriages, low birth weight infant, and high mortality rates. However, since animal reproduction studies do not exactly predict human response, this medication may still be prescribed for pregnant women if there is a clear need. You and your healthcare provider must consider the potential benefits and risk of this drug.

Exposure to Effexor During the Third Trimester

Newborn infants who have been exposed to Effexor, as well as other SNRIs (Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors), or SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) during the last three months of pregnancy are at increased risk of exhibiting serious complications.

These complications often occur several hours after delivery and may require hospitalization, respiratory support and tube feeding. Some of the reported clinical findings include:

  • Difficulty of breathing
  • Lack of oxygen in the blood (cyanosis)
  • Interruption of breathing (apnea)
  • Seizures
  • Tremors
  • Temperature instability
  • Difficulty sucking
  • Vomiting
  • Low blood sugar levels
  • Irritability
  • Constant crying

These adverse effects are a result of either drug toxicity or, possibly, drug withdrawal symptoms. In some reported cases, infants exhibit symptoms that are consisted with serotonin syndrome.

In addition, exposure to Effexor during the last months of pregnancy has been associated with persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). This is a fatal complication that can lead to death. Babies born to mothers who have been taking Effexor after 20 weeks of pregnancy are at higher risk, almost six times, of experiencing PPHN.

If you become pregnant while taking Effexor, inform your healthcare provider right away. Your healthcare provider will evaluate your condition and consider the benefits and risks of taking this medication. He or she can either recommend discontinuing the drug or adjusting your Effexor dosage.

Can Breastfeeding Women Take Effexor?

Studies suggest that small amounts of Effexor are excreted in breast milk. The manufacturer recommends that healthcare providers consider the potential serious side effects of this drug in nursing infants, while taking into consideration the importance of this medication to the mother. Your healthcare provider may recommend either to discontinue the drug or to discontinue breastfeeding.

Most healthcare providers recommend continuing breastfeeding while taking Effexor. Usually, the benefits of breastfeeding an infant outweigh the potential risks. Furthermore, problems due to infant exposure to Effexor through breast milk are very rare. Studies suggest that while this medication passes through the breast milk, the amount is too low to cause problems. However, infants of nursing mothers taking Effexor should be closely monitored for any side effects.

It is important to consult your healthcare provider for recommendations about breastfeeding and Effexor. Take note that each patient has a unique situation. Depending on your situation, your healthcare provider can give you an appropriate recommendation.