November 26, 2012 — Women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant should talk to their doctor about the risks and benefits of using Pristiq (desvenlafaxine) during pregnancy.
According to the FDA, Pristiq is a “Pregnancy Category C” medication, which means that it could potentially cause birth defects, but it may still be prescribed if the benefits outweigh the risks.
Pristiq treats major depressive disorder by influencing levels of serotonin and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are involved in regulating moods and emotions. Pristiq can also potentially influence a developing fetus, because it passes through the placenta and the baby’s blood-brain barrier.
During fetal development, serotonin plays an important signaling role during heart development during the first trimester of pregnancy. Several studies have linked the use of antidepressants to an increased risk of heart defects. Other studies have linked antidepressants to increased risks during the third trimester. Even the manufacturer of Pristiq has warned about a possible “direct toxic effect” of Pristiq, including the following warning:
“Neonates exposed to SNRIs (Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors), or SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors), late in the third trimester have developed complications requiring prolonged hospitalization, respiratory support, and tube feeding. Such complications can arise immediately upon delivery.”
There is very little scientific information specifically involving Pristiq, pregnancy, and birth defects. No studies have been conducted of Pristiq in pregnant women, but animal studies have linked Pristiq to an increased risk of fetal death. Therefore, the manufacturer warns that Pristiq should only be used during pregnancy if the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks.