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Effexor (venlafaxine) is an antidepressant medication that has been linked to a significantly higher risk of anencephaly, a life-threatening birth defect in which the brain and skull fail to develop.

Effexor and Anencephaly

Effexor (venlafaxine) is an antidepressant used to treat major depression and anxiety disorders in adults. When it is used during pregnancy, the active drugs in Effexor also influence a developing fetus. Effexor influences serotonin and norepinephrine, which are involved in a mother’s moods and emotions, but also a fetus’s development. Serotonin appears very early in fetal development.

Studies of Effexor and Anencephaly

The journal Birth Defects Research published this study in December 2012, which associated Effexor with a 6.5-fold increased risk of anencephaly. Researchers analyzed data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS), which is an ongoing study of birth defects in the United States.

What is Anencephaly?

Anencephaly is a birth defect that occurs during the first month of pregnancy, when the baby’s neural tube fails to close completely. The neural tube is the protective covering around the spinal cord. If it fails to close, amniotic fluid in the womb can cause severe damage to the central nervous system. Babies with anencephaly are often born without large portions of their brain and/or skull.