A new study has identified a disturbing link between the widely-prescribed antidepressant Effexor (generic: venlafaxine) and cleft palate birth defects. The research determined that, when taken by expecting mothers early on in the course of their pregnancies, Effexor has the potential to cause cleft palate and other serious neural tube defects. Cleft palate occurs when parts of the orofacial palate fail to fuse together completely during the first trimester of pregnancy.
What’s the problem?
The new research, which analyzed data gathered from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS), included a cohort of mothers whose children were born with one or more of a selected number of congenital abnormalities, and a control group of babies born without defects who were delivered between 1997 and 2007. Exposure to Effexor was defined as any use of the drug by the expecting mother from one month preconception through the first trimester of pregnancy. The cumulative results of the study identified a positive correlation between the maternal use of Effexor during pregnancy and cleft palate, as well as four other serious congenital birth defects.
Cleft Palate Overview
Cleft palate is a relatively common neural tube defect that occurs when part of the orofacial palate fails to fuse together completely during the first trimester of pregnancy (a time when many women are still unaware they are pregnant). Though not considered to be a life-threatening birth defect, surgery is often performed on babies born with cleft palate soon after birth or in early childhood to close the fissure. Signs and symptoms of Effexor cleft palate may include:
- Change in nose shape (amount of distortion varies)
- Failure to gain weight
- Feeding problems
- Flow of milk through nasal passages during feeding
- Misaligned teeth
- Poor growth
- Recurrent ear infections
- Separation of the lip alone
- Separation of the palate
- Separation of the lip and palate
- Speech difficulties
Cleft Palate Prognosis (Outlook)
Most children who undergo surgery to repair cleft palate heal without problems. How the child looks after healing depends on the severity of the defect, and severe cases may require additional surgeries to fix the scar from the surgery wound. Due to the fact that many children born with a cleft palate may have dental problems due to the congenital fissure, affected individuals may need to see a dentist or orthodontist to fix the problem. Additionally, cleft palate babies may have issues with speech caused by muscle problems in the palate, even after the defect is repaired. Speech therapy is recommended in such cases.
Other Birth Defect Linked to Effexor
In addition to cleft palate, other serious congenital birth defects linked to Effexor by the new study include: