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SNRI Birth Defects Can and Have Been Fatal

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Washington, DCA study published in Birth Defects Research (Part A, 2012) that found statistically significant associations between the use of a widely prescribed SNRI antidepressant during early stages of pregnancy and SNRI birth defects would be no surprise to the parents of two infants who did not survive after their mothers continued taking Effexor while pregnant.

While often lumped into the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) class, venlafaxine (Effexor) in actual fact is among a class of antidepressants known as Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs). With medication continuing to hover at the forefront of treatment methods for chronic depression, it leaves women of childbearing age and their doctors in a conundrum…

Stop an SNRI antidepressant and put the mother at risk, or continue with medication and risk SNRI birth defects. While links have been uncovered, there is apparently a lack of conclusive research. Most advocacy groups representing pregnant women maintain SSRI and SNRI medications are safe and pose little to no risk to the fetus - while continuing to deliver benefit to the mother. Nonetheless, previous studies have exposed links and associations to serious SNRI side effects negatively impacting the fetus. And a pending study to be conducted in Switzerland and France will examine the risk to an infant when a lactating mother who breastfeeds takes either an SSRI or SNRI.

For the parents of Matthew Schultz and Indiana Delahunty, there can be little doubt that an SNRI antidepressant played a role in the tragic demise of their infants. Their stories are similar, as are the given names of the two women involved - Christiane Schultz and Christian Delahunty.

Both were on Effexor, an SNRI, throughout their pregnancy. Both were unaware of the potential complications and risk to their infants. Delahunty consulted her doctor before becoming pregnant. Wanting another child, she wished to know if it was safe to remain on Effexor, an antidepressant which had proven effective for her.

The answer she was given by her doctor was that there were no studies showing Effexor travels to the baby through the placenta or through breast milk. She was told it would be safe to remain on Effexor.

As previously chronicled at, the day Indiana was born the attending physician at the hospital appeared surprised to hear that Christian was actively taking an SNRI. The doctor, it has been reported, notified the neonatal intensive care unit of the hospital to expect “an Effexor baby.”

Indiana was born fighting for breath, but the crisis soon passed and she was discharged. However, her mother noted that her infant daughter appeared to have ongoing issues requiring frequent trips to the hospital. Just a few short weeks into her young life, Indiana was found not breathing. Rushed to the hospital, she could not be revived.

Matthew Schultz lived just two hours following birth. He cried only once soon after he was born, but his lungs soon shut down. Matthew’s mother took Effexor, an SNRI antidepressant, throughout her pregnancy.

SNRI and SSRI medications have similarities. To that end, one study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine concluded that women who ingested an SSRI during their third trimester were six times more likely to deliver an infant with pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) than childbearing women who did not take an SSRI during the last three months of pregnancy.

PPHN is characterized by an infant who fails to successfully adjust to breathing outside the womb. It can be fatal. In the cases of Indiana Delahunty and Matthew Schultz, it was…


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