Posted by Claudia Grazioso on May 18, 2012
A lot of attention has been focused on the possible risks of taking Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs, during pregnancy. And while SSRIs are a very popular class of antidepressant, there are a variety of other pharmaceutical treatments available to treat depression. Nefazodone, classified as a phenylpiperazine antidepressant, is one such drug. So far, nefazodone has not been conclusively linked to birth defects, but there are still reasons to approach this drug with caution if you are pregnant.
First, like many of its fellow antidepressant SSRIs and SNRIs, nefazodone was given a Category C rating by the Food and Drug Administration. This means that while no studies have been performed on pregnant women, animal studies have shown a cause for at least caution if not concern. In animal studies, fetuses exposed to nefazodone had higher infant mortality rates and a greater risk of a low birth weight. Additionally, some experts point out that we still don’t know what the long-term effects of prenatal exposure to nefazodone are since no large-scale studies have been performed.
Here’s what scares me about this drug: While generic versions of nefazodone are still available in the United States, Serzone (which is the brand name under which it was marketed for a while) was discontinued in the U.S. a few years ago because it appeared to be linked to liver damage which could necessitate a liver transplant. Now, if I were pregnant, I think I would avoid any drug that is even remotely similar to a drug so potentially toxic to my liver that I might need a new one. If you are pregnant, wrestling with depression and considering nefazodone, talk to your doctor about whether the risks outweigh the benefits. Also, know that nefazodone does enter breastmilk. Though no major side effects have been reported, it still might be a good idea to err on the side of caution if you are taking nefazodone and nursing an infant.