One of the most difficult Effexor-related birth defects is the condition known as Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN). Described briefly, PPHN results in the infant being unable to breathe properly due to a defect in the way blood interacts with the lungs.
It is not a minor matter, but rather a very serious condition requiring extensive treatments that can be difficult and expensive for a family to bear. The fact that it can result from a medicine intended to treat the mother makes this birth defect heartbreaking.
Treatment of PPHN focuses on getting more oxygen into the infant’s blood. There are a number of methods used to do this, each of which create its own unique problems.
The first option is to deliver 100 percent oxygen directly to the child, using either a hood or a mask. This is a temporary solution at best, of course, because the body wasn’t designed to process pure oxygen.
Sometimes assisted ventilation is the preferred technique. In this case, a tube is inserted into the child’s throat to allow a machine to take over for her breathing. This procedure can be enhanced with the addition of nitric oxide, a gas that helps relax the constricted blood vessels in the lungs, allowing better blood flow and easier breathing.
A treatment of last resort is Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation. This treatment is a terrifying one, as it involves putting the child on a lung-bypass machine. In essence, when the child’s lungs and heart prove unable to handle the problem, the infant is placed on the machine that draws their blood, cleans and oxygenates it, and then resupplies it back to the child.
Each of these options can be difficult for a parent. Worse, they aren’t always guaranteed to work. The idea is to give the infant’s body time to adapt to the world and heal while being given assistance, but in some cases the damage is too extensive.
PPHN is a serious condition, and needs to be discussed critically with mothers who are on Effexor while pregnant.