Pristiq (desvenlafaxine) is a type of antidepressant medication in the SNRI class (serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor). It is commonly prescribed to treat depression, anxiety, and panic disorders.
What is Pristiq?
Pristiq (desvenlafaxine) is a newer type of antidepressant in the SNRI class of drugs. It was created by the drug company Wyeth Pharmaceuticals (purchased by Pfizer), and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2008. The Pristiq molecule is very similar to another drug, Effexor, which is also metabolized into desvenlafaxine. Both drugs treat depression by influencing levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, two neurotransmitters involved in moods and emotions.
Pristiq and Pregnancy
There is growing research linking the use of antidepressants during pregnancy to an increased risk of birth defects. The FDA classifies Pristiq as a Pregnancy Category C drug, which means that Pristiq has shown evidence of causing birth defects in animal studies, but the effect in humans is unknown. Pristiq may cause side effects for a newborn baby if the mother uses Pristiq during pregnancy. Furthermore, Pristiq may pass through breast-milk, and could harm a nursing infant.
Pristiq and Birth Defects
Pristiq may increase the risk of the following birth defects:
- Heart defects (septal heart defects)
- Premature birth
- Abdominal birth defects (including omphalocele, gastroschisis)
- Cranial defects (craniosynostosis)
- Neural tube defects (birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, spina bifida)
- Intellectual disabilities
- Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN)
- Physical birth defects (clubfoot, cleft lip, cleft palate)
- Withdrawal symptoms at birth (breathing problems, seizures, vomiting, irritability, feeding difficulty, tremors, etc)
- Developmental delays
- And more
Pristiq and Heart Defects
The birth defects strongly associated with antidepressants are septal heart defects. These defects occur in the septal wall, which separates the left and right sides of the heart. If the defect is in the septal wall between the two upper chambers of the heart, it is an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD). If it is between the two lower chambers of the heart, it is a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD). The severity of septal heart defects depends on the size and number of holes in the septal wall.
Pristiq and Suicide
Pristiq has also been associated with an increased risk of suicidal behavior and thoughts. Since 2002, the FDA has required that all antidepressant medications carry warnings about this possible side effects. Pristiq carries a “Black Box” warning about the risk of suicide, which is the most serious type of warning the FDA can place on a medication.