Protect Your Baby

We are the parents of Matthew. We never expected this to happen since antidepressants are labeled as “safe” to use even while pregnanty. The 5 pregnancies on this safe drug, Effexor, all had problems. Even my pregnancies got more difficult. We miscarried our first child. Our second and fourth had a “harmless” heart murmur. Our third was born with a very low birth weight and severe breathing problems needing emergency care and 10 days in an incubator pumping him oxygen. And now at 4 and a half, he still gets cyanotic. And our last, Matthew, who’s autopsy showed him perfect. Except he couldn’t absorb oxygen and went into cardiac arrest and died within a couple of hours of birth. These “safe” drugs are far from safe and people need to know the facts.

20 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Joseph  |  December 28, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    My wife is pregnant with our second child. She takes effexor on a daily basis. She is truly someone who has to take this medicine because it is like night and day when she is off of her medicine. With our first child she quit taking it, cold turkey and we went through a very difficult period. Now she has our 2 year old son to watch and I dont know if she could handle being off her meds again. What would you recomend?

    Reply
  • 2. schultzc  |  December 30, 2009 at 6:00 am

    I can tell you the first problem is that she quit cold turkey. Very bad idea. Cold turkey is very hard on your brain and body. It can have severe psychological effects and could potentially kill you. I weaned over 4 months. Those 4 months were too fast to wean, but I wanted off them. I went “crazy”. You could say it was like night and day for me too. I went through so many affects of withdrawal. I felt like a crack head coming down. I had shakes and horrible thoughts and physical feelings. My emotional state was a daily rollercoaster. It got so bad some days, that it was better if I stayed in bed. Some times I even thought of taking something, I didn’t care what even a street drug, just to stop the horrible withdrawals. But I perservered with my husbands help. He watched the kids for me and sometimes took them out for the day when I was having a bad day. The kids kept asking how long mommy would be sick. But I can say now, that all that emotional and physical symptoms behind me, I am much better off. I no longer have the side effects of the meds. I don’t have to worry about experiencing serotonin syndrome again. That should have killed me. I now experience feelings I could never feel while medicated. I have more energy and have more of myself to give to my husband and children. I am a whole different person. I am alive again and feel human. No longer distant and drugged. I look back and realize I was a drug addict who is now clean. It’s only acceptable because the drug is prescribed.
    Weaning can be done, but I suggest taking her time. Don’t wean 37.5 mg at a time. That’s too fast. You may have to go to a compounding pharmacist to make her pills lesser by little. What we did was have my doctor give me a 3 month prescription and we opened one at a time and counted the little balls inside. We removed like 12 mg at a time or 5%. I took that dose for 2 weeks before dropping again. I am kind of concerned because your wife is pregnant already. The use of this drug is most dangerous to your child in the third trimester. I took my pill in the morning and had Matthew in the evening. Right at withdrawal time for him. If she could wean before the third trimester it would be great, but if not. Take it slow. And I totally recommend that immediatly after the birth, you make sure your baby has a pulse-oxymeter attached to it. It monitors heart rate and oxygen absorption. That alone would have saved Matthew’s life. A simple machine they tape to his heel or attach to a finger. And make sure the hospital staff monitors your child for the first 12 – 24 hours of their life. That is the crucial time. Matthew wasn’t monitored at all. My other suggestion that if your wife is still on the Effexor during labor, do not let the hospital give her fentanyl for pain. Fentanyl and Effexor together increase each drugs half life. That’s a danger to your wife and child. I hope this helps a little. If you want more information, just ask. My husband put together a file of info for our doctor who’s quite concerned.
    It is a scary thought to think of weaning. I thought about it in the past, but the doctors told me I needed the meds for the rest of my life and that weaning is too difficult anyway. And yeah, I could have been on them the rest of my life, although I believe my life would have been shortened. These meds increase a womans risk of a heart attack dramatically. If you are understanding and supportive, she will make it. All the best of luck in whatever you decide.

    Reply
  • 3. Joseph  |  January 14, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    The first thing the doctor said was to cut the 75mg dose in half to 37.5 mg then go every other day and be off in two weeks. Keep in mind when we spoke to the obstetrician it was like she had zero experience with someone coming off Effexor. Me and my wife both agree to taper her off especially having gone through this ordeal once and now after reading about so many more people who have had to do this own their own. I dont think some doctors realize what coming off of this drug is really like. I am going to try the removing some of the balls inside at a time. We want to make her goal 4 to 5 weeks to wean which would put her at her 2nd trimester she is currently 8-9 weeks pregnant with a healthy baby and good heartbeat. Maybe we can do the reduction by 5% at a time to slowy ease her into the withdrawel. Also if you know of any other specific website that may have information on this subject will you please post it for me.

    Reply
  • 4. Christiane Schultz  |  January 14, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    I am glad you are getting off of this. But I want you to understand how hard this is going to be. It sounds way too fast, but I understand the urgency. You want your baby safe.
    I agree. Most doctors don’t know how difficult it is to wean. They see patients stopping and feeling crazy that they assume that person needs the meds to be better. I am lucky my doctor was supportive. He is actually glad for us since we taught him a lot about these drugs. But please don’t cut her dose in half to start. Very bad idea. Take it slower please.
    Your wife will go through withdrawal symptoms. Physically and emotionally. She may get desperate and want her meds back. May actually demand or beg. I wanted street drugs just to feel better. Sleeping will be affected which affects everything else too. Please watch her closely. Be very supportive. Don’t get mad at her reactions or take them personally. It won’t be you. Withdrawing is horrible to go through. Listen to her and help her any way you can. I’m sure the uncomfortablness will be worse for her since she’s also pregnant. Watch her very closely to make sure she’s not weaning too quickly. If a lowered dose seems to much, go up a little bit or take an extra week on that dose. I was at 150 mg and the weaning didn’t get too difficult until I got to 37.5mg. That was terrible. Watch for psychosis. That’s an issue when weaning quickly. Also, please monitor her blood pressure. Seretonin levels affect that. If that goes wonky it’s dangerous and needs to be watched medically. Also watch her heartrate. Don’t let doctors downplay or not take you guys seriously. You said it yourself. Doctors don’t know. Get the baby monitored often too. And keep yourself supported. It helps to know others who have been through this. I’ve met a few. I am here for you and your wife if need be. Weaning is scary and before Matthew I wouldn’t have done it. Sounded too hard and I thought it wasn’t dangerous. But during his pregnancy I also had seretonin syndrome which could have killed me too. I wish I would have weaned years ago. The withdrawal is nothing when looking from the view that these meds have killed two of my boys and almost killed me. She can do it. I will be thinking of you guys everyday. Please keep me posted with how she is doing. She can make it. You are her caregiver and supporter right now. As difficult as it is, you are not alone. My husband is here for support and advice if you’re getting unsure. He’s done it with me and he’s still alive. I am so grateful for him and I love him to the ends of the earth. He is my hero. He stood by my side and was the only one who worked to get me through this. Good luck.

    Reply
  • 5. Joseph  |  January 15, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    What we decided on was to decrease the dose by 20% per week for four weeks 80% for one week 60% one week 40% one week 20% one week then the last week 20% every other day 20% after 2 days without then stop. This gives her five weeks to ease off. What i did was baught one of those weekly pill boxes and setup the first week for her. BTW she is taking 75mg, i opened it up and ball by ball divided into 5 piles (20% each) Then I removed one pile and disposed of it, took the other four piles and placed them back into the capsule. I did 7 of these last night to give her a one week supply then hid the remaining bottle of the 75mg and 37.5 mg that was given by the doctor. Approximately 4 weeks into this cycle she has a doctor appt. scheduled to check on the baby etc. so the doctor will be able to check her out as she is reaching the end with taking 20% of her former dosage. I have been racking my brain about this and basically that is the game plan I came up with. I just remember how horrible it was for her last time when she quit cold turkey. I had no idea of the effects of this medicine. i also had no true understanding yet of my wifes conditions. She stayed strong though and stayed off her meds until she finished breast feeding which I think was 6 months after our son was born. It was very difficult though. I remember her manic mood swings and compulsive lying about minor things. For a time there I thought we were not going to make it through together but we did and it has been great every since. I know that this medicine does work for her and she functions fine while taking but I am absolutely not looking forward to going through this process again. I do know now though I will try to make her life as easy as possible and stress free and be totally supportive.

    Reply
  • 6. Amy Philo  |  January 25, 2010 at 4:12 am

    Joseph, this is Christiane’s friend Amy. Please also check out additional info on Effexor, natural health, alternatives, etc. via my websites http://uniteforlife.wordpress.com/
    and
    http://momsandmeds.com/
    http://www.drugawareness.org/ has good withdrawal information.

    Reply
  • 7. myndi spencer  |  February 22, 2010 at 3:29 am

    first, find a doctor that cares about your wife and not the money. None of the psychiatric diseases are proven, they are theories. If taking the drugs makes a difference that’s because they ARE drugs and drinking a beer makes a difference too. Think about it, how many people drink to forget their problem?. Same principal. Second, try nutritional solutions. For instance, a deficiency in Vitamin D can cause a person to feel depressed. A lack of B vitamins can cause anxiety or severely bad, hostile moods, crying spells and/or nightmares. Take the time and understanding to find out about these things. And keep in mind, no pregnant woman is always “happy”. There are severe shifts in hormone levels and it happens suddenly. You would be cabby sometimes too!

    Reply
  • 8. Shannon  |  March 26, 2010 at 2:07 am

    I just got home from an appointment with a psychiatrist. I was referred to her from a dr at the hospital (long story) who was in disbelief that my OB told me to stay on my Effexor. They psychiatrist and her partner both felt the same as the dr. I am 32 weeks pregnant (already high risk due to high blood pressure and a previous pre-term labor with my son). I have been taking 300mg Effexor daily throughout my pregnancy. When I got home today I started doing some research and now find myself terrified for my baby’s health. The psychiatrist is weaning me off the Effexor as quickly and safely as she can, but I am really concerned that the damage is done from having been on such a high dose for so long. My heart goes out to you for what you have been through. I am feeling very angry at myself for so blindly trusting my OB who assured me it was safe to stay on the Effexor. I know I should have questioned her more about it. What can I do now? Is there anything else I can for my baby?

    Reply
    • 9. schultzc  |  March 27, 2010 at 8:18 pm

      All I can recommend is that you do wean it as quick as possible, but not too fast. The withdrawal effects are horrible and I weaned when I wasn’t pregnant, so I wasn’t worried about anybody else physically other than myself. Also, afterwards, I would just watch my child. Doctors don’t tell you that your baby is a drug exposure baby, but they are. Just a legal drug. I find that my boys are quite similar to my adopted nephew who was exposed to cocaine in the womb. Drug exposure is drug exposure.
      Watch your baby at the hospital. Have them monitored by a pulsoxymeter. Simple machine that detects babys O2 levels.
      Also, long term wise. I have learned that exposure to antidepressants can cause sleep problems in the future for the exposed child. And I can speak from experience. My daughter is perfectly healthy. I didn’t take meds with her. But my 3 surviving boys, all exposed have sleep disorders. All have sleep apnea. My 3 year old is the most severe. My oldest son son has an irrigular heart beat. They all snore badly. They sleep walk. They have night terrors and lots of talking in their sleep. They also have trouble getting restful sleep. And if it does affect the child they will want to medicate them when their older. But I won’t give my children speed because of behaviour issues. They are active boys and not really a problem if I remember they are drug exposure children. And I look at it from the prospective of a mommy who loves my kids and wouldn’t want to lose them too. I actually find their activity level fun and it keeps my active too. A positive. Keep your child healthy after this risk.
      Good luck with weaning and I hope things go well. You have a lucky child. Their mommy really loves them to protect them now.

      Reply
    • 10. Amy Philo  |  March 31, 2010 at 5:28 am

      Shannon, are you in the US? If so please feel free to call me any time and I will call you back if I miss your call. 817-793-8028. I am Christiane’s friend and I have been studying this issue for 5 years and would love to help however I can. You can also email me at amyphilo@yahoo.com or amy@uniteforlife.org

      I am glad you found the site because you now have an advantage to help your child through this. God bless you.

      Reply
  • 11. KL  |  April 13, 2010 at 1:58 am

    Hi,

    I’m so sorry for what you have went through. I have only been on psych meds for a short time, Wellburtrin SR being the longest (1 year) to get me over a depressive hump. It’s been 8 years since I’ve been on any meds but after the birth of our son in Dec 08, I feel all over the place. Depressed, anxious, angry, intrusive thoughts, then panic over how I’m feeling because this has been an on and off battle my entire life. As a former pharmaceutical ad copywriter AND a patient, I do know the side effects. But the emotional symptoms are becoming too much to bear. Suicidal thoughts out of desperation have popped up in my head more and more. I love my son more than the world and I don’t want to show him the depression, anger, anxiety, etc. He deserves better. These emotions are costing me my marriage and I’m afraid my job (which we can’t afford me to lose since I’m the main income provider).

    I honestly don’t know what to do. I thought perhaps it was purely hormonal. When I was pregnant, only the first and last month I was anxious/irritable. But honestly, the rest of my pregnancy was happy, beautiful and stable. I was so desperate I emailed my reproductive endocrinologist asking if there is a hormonal link to these feelings and perhaps switching birth control would help.

    I’m desperate. I don’t know what to do. The medical community will of course put me as a guinea pig. Two months ago I tried generic Celexa and after 3 days got off of it. I was so sick.

    Any ideas?

    Reply
    • 12. schultzc  |  April 13, 2010 at 4:22 am

      I’m not sure what to say about hormonal problems. The only chemicals I ever put in my body were antidepressants. I never even put chemicals into me for fertility or to stop it. I look back at my life and realize that I wouldn’t put a chemical in my body to stop my body from doing what it does naturally and yet I ingested antidepressants.
      I had so many battles with anxiety, depression and anger myself. I used to be married to an abuser which caused suicidal thoughts (although I didn’t start having these thoughts until I started antidepressants a few weeks before). And now I battle with it today (depression). Obviously since two of my children have died. That is a great reason to go through all those feelings up and down rollercoaster everyday. Some days are good, but some I am so anxious or depressed or lost or angry. But you know what. The 8 years I was on medication I still went through all those feelings as well. I was on medication for depression and yet I still suffer from depression? I was on medication for anxiety and yet I still suffer from anxiety? Hmmm….sounds fishy.
      I have learned about clinical studies and that the times that the antidepressants worked in testing is when the patients got side effects. It seems the side effects was the clue that they weren’t on the placebo so they felt better. It still sounds an awful lot like the placebo effect to me. And there is absolutely no scientific evidence that these medications actually work. They use words like theorize, or thought. They can’t prove any so called chemical imbalance. Where is this test?
      How do I deal with the recent deaths of my two precious little boys and the weaning of hard to wean, addictive drug? I take the drug companies placebo effect to heart. I find a safe way, like counselling and talking to others in support groups, and typing and tell myself it will make me feel better. And it does. That placebo effect works great for me. And no side effects!
      All those years on my meds where I thought I felt better but still sufferred from depression and anxiety was not worth these risks. I am now clean. And although I feel depressed and anxious and angry (duh, my children died just this past year) I am actually feeling alive again. What else has helped is having full range of my emotions back. The meds took those away and left me disconnected and numb. Working through my problems and healing is so much more beneficial than the bandaid the drug company gives us. “Take the pill and you will feel better”. Unfortunately, if you don’t face your problems and work through them, they will always be problems.
      I am so lucky to have support and friends who I can turn to when I am feeling down or bad. And I no longer worry about what it’s doing to my body. Right now I am depressed and anxious and angry because now that I’m off the meds my body has not come back to normal yet. They have given me fertility problems. Me, who concieved my previous 6 pregnancies on the first or second try. Buy I am working with my body and seeking help by my doctor to see where my body is different. He is sure I just have to have an adjustment period after getting it out of my system only 6 months ago. It’s a loss every month for me, but I will make it. I will get through it.
      So what can you do? Get clean. Find support. Exercise. Healthy diet. Work through your problems. And try Vitamin D. What better thing for your child than showing him how to work through your problems, learn from them, grow from them? And teaching him a healthy lifestyle is good for him too. My kids know I struggle with these feelings, but they see me work through them and they support me. And they are wonderful little cheerleaders. On days I am stuck in bed, depressed and crying, my little 3 year old will climb in my bed, say, “Mommy’s sad. I love you mommy, come play outside with me.” Wow. I got affirmation for my feelings. I got acceptance. And I got a motivator who I love so much to drag my sorry butt out of bed and go play with. I feel better after and he feels good because he helped make mommy feel better. And on really bad days that I may not feel better, they don’t take it personally or feel as though they couldn’t make me better. They understand that mommy is just sad today. They will get themselves a book and hang out on my bed with me and read while I feel sad. They don’t judge me and the love me. Kids are amazing. Trusting your child is good for him too. And being honest with yourself and honest about your struggles will help your child to feel okay with themselves too. We are human and all struggle. If we don’t work through the struggles, how can we ever get better and stronger? And what better legacy to pass to your children than the strength it takes to be human and to try?
      Good luck.

      Reply
  • 13. Annabelle  |  April 27, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    I’ve been on Effexor XR for over 5 years for anxiety. I have been ttc during that period but after reading about your terrible loss, so sorry about that, I’ve decided I want to get off these drugs. I just don’t know how. I’m scared to death to come off them. I’m currently on 225mg/day and when I asked my RE and my dr both said it ‘should’ be fine. Well I’m not going to wait and find out, I want off asap if possible. Please if you could help me, I’d really appreciate it. Also are there any other meds or vitamins that I could use to switch to? Thanks.

    Reply
    • 14. schultzc  |  May 3, 2010 at 9:23 pm

      You just need to wean slowly. Over 6 months if you can. Just remember, if you find too many withdrawal effects, please slow down. Weaning too quickly can be dangerous too. Not only that, I miscarried while weaning at 18 weeks along. And now for the last 6 months, I have been infertile. And when you get near the end, you may have to open your capsules like I did, and count the little balls inside. Actually if you check under Protect your baby comments, I explain to a man named Joseph how to wean his wife. Check that out. If you can’t find it, let me know. I know how dangerous it is on these while pregnant. Especially the third trimester. Also, if you haven’t read all my posts, I mention my 3 living boys all having long term issues as well. Sleep issues, breathing issues, sleep apnea, irregular heart beat and other problems.
      I have read that Vitamin D is good for depression and anxiety. As there is no scientific evidence at what actually causes depression, they can’t know what will work or even test if these ssri’s even work. Seretonin affects the Central nervous system and the digestive system. While on my meds, I got terrible irritable bowel syndrom which is not surprising. And babies exposed inutero have their seretonin levels affected too. Being that it affects central nervous system, it’s no wonder that in a country with great medical treatment, babies dying of SIDS is on the rise. Autopsies on babies who’ve died from SIDS had different levels of seretonin in their brains. Makes me go hmmm. My middle son who almost died 5 years ago from PPHN and acute withdrawal (same thing that killed Matthew) he has serious digestive tract issues. That’s not a surprise either. But doctors don’t know things other than what drug reps tell them, so they tend not to believe it. Jacob is 5.5 now and can’t feel when he has to poop. He’s always checking his pants and always surprised when he does poop. He also has severe backlog in his bowels the doctors are shocked. I’ve even shown them that digestive system deals with seretonin. Seretonin levels can be checked in the intestinal tract. I just can’t stand how this world revolves around money. I would love to hear you come off the meds. Ask me anything you want and I will do what I can to help you. I will get my husband to find the list of natural vitamins to help too.
      From personal experience, I feel more alive than I have in 8 years. Of course I’m greiving the loss of my boys, but I take my emotions as a gift now. And to be honest, my depression is no worse than when I was medicated. I was in the psyche ward for 3 weeks and medicated for 8 years. And yet, it never did anything for my depression. Also my husband is happy. He says he has his wife back. I take my problems head on and deal with them as they come. A little pill can’t make problems go away. No better than alcohol or crack. If the problems aren’t worked through, they are still there.

      Reply
  • 15. Annabelle  |  July 24, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Thank you so much for your great information. Today I am off Effexor but I am experiencing the withdrawal side effects. I had my last pill, 37.5mg, on Thursday July 22. I’m having what I can only explain as my eyes and body “jumping” as a bad side effect. I feel very weepy and I’m trying to keep my anxiety down as I’m alone for the next day or so until my bf comes back. I warned him about the side effects of me coming off this drug but so far they’ve been manageable. However, now that I don’t have it in my system I’m worried I won’t be so lucky. Is there anything I can tell him to look out for and be supportative about? Thank you again for you help, I really appreciate it.

    Reply
    • 16. schultzc  |  July 27, 2010 at 5:09 am

      Hi Annabelle. I’ve been thinking about your comment for a couple of days. After what I’ve learned with weaning, I’ve found out that a weaning effects are depressive and anxiety symptoms. Those wonderful problems that doctors want to prescribe antidepressants for. They will go away, but they come on pretty strong during the weaning process. I am happy you got down to 37.5 mg. But I wouldn’t stop there. That is the dose I got to when my withdrawal symptoms got at their worst. I actually got my doctor to prescribe more Effexor so I could get my husband to take apart the capsules and wean me down even lower. There is not much I remember during the weaning when it got bad other than the hell I was going through. But I do remember Amery sitting at the table with my pills and counting the little beads inside to slowly lower my dose down more. Effexor has an extremely short half life, so when weaning we tend to get withdrawal a lot faster than say Paxil. Effexor you start to feel withdrawal within a few hours of a dose being missed as opposed to one or two weeks with say Paxil. That’s why Effexor is so difficult to get off of.
      Amery made my pills smaller a little at a time and made enough for I think a week at that dose before lowering me some more. I don’t know what my smallest dose was. I do remember like some being around 12 mg, but by that point, I gave all that to Amery so all I had to do was wean. He was great. We told the kids mommy would get worse before she got better and that anything I was feeling was not their fault. Amery did a lot with the kids so I could go lie down and get through my tough times. In the evening he had the tub ready so I could soak in the bath. When my physical effects woke me up at night, he was there for me. I think for the support part, I will get Amery to post about how to be supportive as I was just getting through it. You still have a ways to go and I’d hate for you to give up.
      I can say I am definitely stronger for it. I look at it as if I can get through that and all the sadness I was going through, I am sure I can get through anything. I do still have my moments, but hey, I am grieving. But I am so happy I am off those meds and have my life back. I just wish I had known to do this before they could harm me and my children. Good luck.

      Reply
      • 17. schultzc  |  July 27, 2010 at 5:11 am

        Look up at my December 30th post. I realized I wrote down my weaning processs and how low.

  • 18. Annabelle  |  August 3, 2010 at 11:04 am

    I wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your great help and information!! I am now 12 days off of Effexor, the first few were a living HELL for sure! I have posted my blog also, hope that’s ok, just so others see what I did and how I felt coming off of them too. I still have some withdrawal symptoms but now I know I don’t need Effexor to feel anymore. I am much better off of this med!! Thank you again!!

    Reply
  • 19. Nicole  |  April 25, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    Hi I lost my baby boy March 23 2011 and had never heard any of the potential problems associated with the use of effexor until he was born. He was in the ICN for a few days for respiratory problems then prom[ptly sent home. He thrived for two months until I woke up one morning and he was cold. Needless to say when I read this report of this happening to someone else so close by(i live in kamloops) I am beyuond pissed!!!! I was on 450mg a day of effexor- I didn\t even realize what a high dose that was to begin with, let alone when you are pregnant…anyway I now believe my sons death was pointless and totally preventable. He was the most beautiful boy you ever saw…….

    Reply
    • 20. liagrainger  |  October 5, 2013 at 12:03 pm

      Hello all. I’m a journalist currently working on a feature story about the effects of SSRIs/SNRIs during pregnancy. If you’d be interested in sharing your story or thoughts with me, I can be reached at liagrainger@gmail.com. Thank you.

      Reply

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