Effexor During Pregnancy – Is It Safe?

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Effexor, an antidepressant during pregnancy, is raising new questions now. Effexor also known as Venlafaxine is used by adults to cope up with depression. It is a prescribed medication for many disorders like social disorder, anxiety disorder, panic disorder, etc and helps in treating serious depression, migraine and other health concerns. It helps with these disorders by inhibiting Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake. According to the doctors, 23% of pregnant women suffer from depression and how it affects the fetus if taken during pregnancy is the main concern arising these days.

Effexor During Pregnancy: Things you Should Know

Effexor

 

Effexor: How it works

The human brain consists of 8 neurotransmitters which are categorized into two types – excitatory and inhibitory. Excitatory neurotransmitters activate the receptors in the brain while inhibitory neurotransmitters perform the reverse.

  • Excitatory – Acetylcholine, Glutamate, Histamine, Norepinephrine and Epinephrine
  • Inhibitory – GABA, Serotonin
  • Excitatory + Inhibitory – Dopamine

Effexor is concerned with the neurotransmitters – serotonin and norepinephrine.

  • Norepinephrine acts in increasing the body’s alertness. Hence, it is associated with mood disorders like anxiety, panic, etc. When its concentration is high, it causes mood swings and mood disorders whereas when its concentration is low, it causes sleep disorders.
  • Serotonin is related to emotions and moods just like Norepinephrine. A balanced concentration of serotonin is required to have a balanced mood and emotions. If there is an imbalance, it causes sleep cycle distortion, food cravings, anxiety disorders, depression, suicidal thoughts, OCD (Obsessive compulsive disorder), etc.

So, Effexor is an antidepressant that inhibits and regulates the concentration levels of these two neurotransmitters. Depending on increasing or regulating the levels, adults are given high or low dose respectively.

Is it safe to take Antidepressants during pregnancy?

Untreated depression is very harmful to the mother, but taking antidepressants during pregnancy affects the baby by increasing the risk of certain birth defects. Depression can affect women in many ways during pregnancy:

  • Women with depression are less likely to take proper care of the baby and themselves. This can include not maintaining a healthy diet schedule, not exercising enough, etc.
  • Depression also increases the risk of taking part in bad activities such as smoking and drinking which are very harmful to the baby.
  • It causes problems in the family since it gets difficult in maintaining good relationships when going through depression.

In case of mild depression, taking these antidepressants while pregnant is not advised since the cons outweigh the pros. Mild depression can be managed with various other measures like:

  • Therapy
  • Exercise
  • Yoga or Meditation
  • Nature walks
  • Listen to good music
  • Hangout with people/socialize and make new buddies (do not isolate)
  • Force yourself to think positive
  • Take part in Volunteering
  • Adopt a pet (improves mental health) [2]
  • Read self-development and improvement books
  • Start hobbies where your passion lies
  • Start a healthy diet

In case of severe depression with past history, experts suggest to move on with antidepressants. However, it is safe for the baby if the antidepressants are not taken in very high doses too frequently. It is rather better to take lose doses and support your depression with the above-mentioned measures. Antidepressants are mostly prescribed when there’s a past history of severe depression,  suicidal thoughts or other mental illnesses.

Antidepressants during pregnancy: Risk study

According to several studies conducted by many researchers, the risks associated with antidepressants were there but seemed to be low. It was found that the risk depends on the women’s body, risk probability and other factors. Hence, there may or may not be a risk at all which makes the anti-depressants usage during pregnancy a risky choice after all. Serotonin reuptake inhibitor type of antidepressants is considered less risky compared to other antidepressants.

The Risks to the baby due to taking antidepressants during pregnancy observed by the researchers include:

  • PPH (Persistent pulmonary hypertension) –
  • Heart defects
  • Breathing difficulties/problems
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels)
  • Birth defects :
    • Craniosynostosis (affects the skull)
    • Omphalocele (affects organs in the abdomen)
    • Malformation of the limbs
    • Anencephaly (affects the brain and spinal cord)
  • Miscarriage
  • Preterm birth (birth before the 37th week of pregnancy)
  • Low birth weight (less than 2.5 kg/ 5.5 pounds)
  • Low Apgar score (Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity and Respiration test) [3]

Generally, all pregnant women have a 3% chance of risk in delivering a baby with some birth defect. According to a study conducted, the increase in the risk by taking antidepressants during pregnancy showed to be only a slight difference from the actual risk. Researchers found that antidepressants showed an increase of 1-2% risk in delivering a baby with birth defects. [4]

Conclusion

To conclude, antidepressants do affect the baby regardless of how minor they impact. Although the effect isn’t vast, it is always better to be safe. Despite how safe or less risky antidepressants can be, it is always advisable to take them in low doses. Remember that it is always better and safe to opt for natural healing methods mentioned above rather than going for medical or chemical healing methods. This is because of how the body is designed. Once the medication is stopped, there is a high chance of feeling depressed again since the body gets habituated to the medication and hence craves for it. So, choose wise and be strong. Happy Parenting!

Hope this article was of help to you! Please share your comments/queries/tips with us and help us create a world full of Happy, Healthy and Empowered Women!!

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