Several studies have found that babies are more likely to be born with a heart defect if their mother uses Effexor (venlafaxine) during pregnancy. One study found a 1.7-fold increased risk of Atrial Septal Defect (ASD), a “hole-in-the-heart” defect that can be life-threatening. Unfortunately, many women who used Effexor report that they were not aware of the devastating risks.
Effexor and Atrial Septal Defect
If you were prescribed Effexor (venlafaxine) during pregnancy, your doctor may or may not have informed you about the potential increased risk of heart defects like Atrial Septal Defect (ASD). Although the link between Effexor and birth defects is inconclusive, several studies have found potential risks of heart defects, including ASD.
The problem is that Effexor treats depression by influencing the way serotonin signals in the brain. Although this is usually a pretty good treatment for depression, it could potentially harm normal fetal development. This is because serotonin signaling during the first trimester of pregnancy is vital for normal heart development in a baby.
Studies of Effexor and Atrial Septal Defect
This study, which was published in December 2012 by Birth Defects Research, associated the use of Effexor during pregnancy with several birth defects, including Atrial Septal Defect (ASD):
“Statistically significant associations were found for anencephaly, atrial septal defect (ASD) secundum, or ASD not otherwise specified, coarctation of the aorta, cleft palate, and gastroschisis.”
The researchers looked at data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS) from 1997 to 2007. During this time, ASD was one of the most common birth defects associated with Effexor. Researchers found a 1.7-fold increased risk associated with Effexor.
What is Atrial Septal Defect?
Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) is a type of congenital heart defect that is also known as a “hole-in-the-heart” defect. Almost all babies are born with an ASD, but it normally closes on its own within a few hours after birth. In some cases, babies are born with large ASDs that do not close and cause severe, life-threatening complications.
An ASD occurs when there is a hole in the septal wall, which separates the left and right side of the heart. Normally, oxygen-poor blood on the right side of the heart does not mix with oxygen-rich blood on the left side of the heart. Babies with a large ASD may have mixed, low-oxygen blood pumped into their body.
Serious complications of ASD include weakness, poor growth, respiratory distress, fluid build-up in the lungs, heart failure, and even death.
Fortunately, ASD can be readily treated with minimally-invasive surgical techniques. A physician may be able to insert a long, flexible tube called a catheter into a large blood vessel in the groin. The physician can then guide a closure device in the heart and fix the defect.