Effexor (venlafaxine) has been linked to a significantly increased risk of cleft palate, according to recent studies. Unfortunately, these warning have come too late for many women who took Effexor during pregnancy and had a baby with cleft palate.
Effexor and Cleft Palate
Taking the antidepressant drug Effexor (venlafaxine) during pregnancy may increase your risk of having a baby with a birth defect. Recent studies have specifically linked Effexor to an increased risk of cleft palate. Unfortunately, many women were not aware of this risk when they decided to take Effexor during pregnancy.
Studies of Effexor and Cleft Palate
In December 2012, researchers published this study in the journal Birth Defects Research, which linked the use of Effexor during pregnancy to several birth defects, including cleft palate. Researchers found a 3-fold increased risk of cleft palate among babies exposed to Effexor during pregnancy.
The study is important, because very few studies have investigated the link between Effexor and birth defects. Most studies of antidepressants and pregnancy have focused on the SSRIs (“Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors”). Effexor and the SSRIs both influence serotonin in a developing fetus, and they both may increase the risk of birth defects.
What is Cleft Palate?
Cleft palate is an oral-facial birth defect that occurs during the first trimester, in which there is a gap in the roof of the mouth. All babies actually begin life with a cleft palate, but it normally fuses together around the 6th or 9th week of pregnancy.
Cleft palate varies widely in severity. Many cases require no treatment. However, severe cases may involve both the hard and soft parts of the palate, and extend into the nasal cavity. In severe cases, babies may have trouble with feeding and swallowing.
With treatment, long-term outlook for children with cleft palate is very good. Some children may need services later in life, such as orthodontic care, speech therapy, or hearing aids.