Is your child or other loved one suffering from a rare abdominal birth defect known as gastroschisis? If the answer is yes, did the mother take the antidepressant Effexor (generic: venlafaxine) during pregnancy? If so, the drug may be to blame, because recent studies have linked the maternal use of Effexor during pregnancy to gastroschisis and other serious birth defects.
What’s the problem?
A research team led by Karen N.D. Polen recently attempted to determine whether Effexor can cause birth defects in babies born to mothers who take the drug during pregnancy. The research, which involved data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS), found a positive correlation between Effexor exposure from one month preconception through the third month of pregnancy and gastroschisis, as well as several other severe birth defects. Polen’s study is the latest in a growing body of scientific evidence linking prescription antidepressant medications to serious congenital abnormalities.
Gastroschisis is a rare but extremely serious birth defect that occurs when an infant’s intestines protrude through a hole in the abdominal wall. As a result, the newborn’s organs are left unprotected and highly vulnerable to damage from the outside world. The defect is so rare that it occurs in less than one in 5,000 live births. Signs and symptoms of Effexor-induced gastroschisis may include:
- abnormal lump in the abdomen
- intestines sticking through the abdominal wall near the umbilical cord
In moderate cases of gastroschisis, the defect may be repaired during a single surgery. During the procedure, the intestines are carefully placed back inside the abdomen and the hole is sewn shut. In more severe cases where the bowel or organs are sticking out, a plastic pouch called a silo may be placed around the bowel and attached to the stomach. Little by little (the entire process may take up to 10 days or even longer), the silo is gently tightened down and a portion of the bowel is pushed inside. Once the bowel and intestines are completely back inside the abdomen, the silo is removed and the defect is closed.
Other Birth Defects Linked to Effexor
In addition to gastroschisis, other birth defects linked to Effexor exposure by Polen’s study included: