Pristiq Side Effects: Common Risks For Users

Last Updated: February 13, 2020

Authored by Nena Messina, Ph.D.

The side effects of Pristiq can greatly hinder the recovery of patients who are particularly sensitive to them. As it is with the majority of psychiatric medications, desvenlafaxine side effects are usually mild, although some patients may not tolerate them well. The adverse influence of this medication can be particularly distressing when it occurs suddenly. Therefore, it’s crucial to learn about the short- and long-term side effects of Pristiq, as well as how to cope with them.

Pristiq Common Side Effects

Pristiq is a medication used to treat major depressive disorder. Its active component, desvenlafaxine, is a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), working to instill the chemical balance in a person’s brain. Due to its specific action, the drug has an extensive list of side effects. Some of them rarely ever manifest, while others are experienced by the majority of patients.

Pristiq And Sleep Issues

The medication is known for causing sleep disturbances in a number of patients. Some claim they sleep better with desvenlafaxine, while others report to experience increased agitation and insomnia. A person’s doctor might suggest several remedies to help with insomnia or change the medication altogether. The patient can reduce this side effect of Pristiq by avoiding caffeine before going to bed, getting regular exercise, and taking the drug in the morning after discussing it with their psychiatrist.

Desvenlafaxine And Anxiety

Some people report that Pristiq makes anxiety worse, inhibiting the recovery process. Mild anxiety is common with this substance, particularly at the beginning of the treatment. The condition tends to cease when a person gets accustomed to the medication. If anxiety persists, the individual should talk to their doctor to determine the best course of action.

Pristiq And Nausea

Nausea is fairly common with antidepressant medications, and desvenlafaxine is no exception. Studies reveal that 35% of patients taking 100mg of the medication, and 41% of patients on 400mg dosage report feeling nauseous on the drug. Patients usually suffer from occasional and mild nausea that goes away quickly. To reduce this Pristiq side effect, a person can take the medication with food, eat smaller but more frequent meals, and sip ginger tea.

rare side effects of pristiq

Rare Side Effects Of Desvenlafaxine

Most side effects of the drug resolve quickly, and the long-term effects of Pristiq are rare. The unusual and persistent symptoms can include:

  • decreasing weight
  • difficulty urinating
  • loss of taste
  • joint pain
  • diarrhea

Prolonged Diarrhea

Diarrhea is one of the more dangerous rare side effects of desvenlafaxine. Usually, it lasts for up to two days and stops without treatment. However, some patients experience prolonged diarrhea, which can be life-threatening. As the condition can cause severe dehydration, it’s important to contact a doctor if it doesn’t stop soon. The healthcare professional might advise the person to wean off Pristiq and switch to a different antidepressant, while prescribing medication to stop diarrhea.

Hair Loss

A small number of new users of this medicine also report hair loss. Research indicates, however, that this phenomenon is rare with SNRI medications. If a person begins experiencing significant hair loss while on desvenlafaxine, it’s best to discuss alternatives to the antidepressant with the patient’s doctor. If finding a different effective medication is not an option, some treatments, such as Rogaine, might help reduce hair loss.

Does Pristiq Cause Weight Gain?

Pristiq for depression is rarely used to battle weight loss and diminished appetite that both commonly occur in people with the discussed condition. Although many patients fear that desvenlafaxine causes weight gain, the FDA reports no significant changes in appetite and body mass in patients who use this drug. For some people, the lack of weight gain on Pristiq is beneficial, particularly if depression forces them to overeat. In high doses, the medication might decrease the appetite, helping fight this symptom of the condition. Still, it shouldn’t be used singularly to treat eating disorders.

Pristiq Sexual Side Effects

Sexual side effects are incredibly common with antidepressant medications. Desvenlafaxine is known for its small influence on the sexual function, although the negative symptoms are still not eradicated.

The most commonly occurring sexual side effects of desvenlafaxine may include:

  • inability to orgasm
  • inability to get and maintain an erection
  • feeling less satisfaction and comfort during sex
  • Pristiq can diminish sex drive

Sexual side effects of Pristiq can be immensely frustrating for all patients regardless of gender. Some people discontinue the treatment due to this influence of the drug, tumbling into depression again and losing the achieved progress. Consulting with a doctor is a much better strategy than quitting the medicine cold turkey, as it poses fewer risks associated with sudden withdrawal.

Pristiq Side Effects During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding

Pregnancy is the time when the mother should be incredibly considerate of the substances she ingests. Certain medications have side effects that affect the fetus adversely and can cause irreversible damage to the child. Although it is generally not recommended to take antidepressants such as Pristiq during pregnancy due to the potential side effects, sometimes the drug is necessary. Only a doctor can decide whether medication is worth using during pregnancy or/and breastfeeding.

pristiq while pregnancy

Is Pristiq Safe To Take During Pregnancy?

Pristiq has pregnancy category C, which means that there isn’t enough data to ensure the drug’s safety for pregnant women and their babies. Potential Pristiq pregnancy risks include:

  • respiratory distress
  • apnea
  • seizures
  • irritability
  • temperature instability in the child

Untreated depression, however, can be crippling and dangerous both to the mother and the fetus. In some cases, the benefits of using the medication will outweigh the risks associated with Pristiq side effects during pregnancy. It’s important to discuss each individual situation with a healthcare professional and determine the correct desvenlafaxine dosage.

Is Pristiq Safe While Breastfeeding?

Taking desvenlafaxine while breastfeeding is generally safe, although the child needs to be monitored and examined frequently. Studies indicate that infants ingest negligible doses of the drug with their mothers’ milk. The concentration of the medication in a child’s plasma is approximately 4.8% of the concentration in the mother’s plasma. It is necessary to contact a doctor if the child becomes excessively sleepy or develops weight gain anomalies. If there are concerns for the child’s safety, the doctor can measure serum levels of the drug in the baby’s system to rule out toxicity.

when pristiq side effects pass away

Do The Side Effects Of Desvenlafaxine Go Away?

Pristiq side effects go away without treatment in the majority of cases. Common and mild conditions, such as headache, nausea, and constipation, often resolve without medical intervention. If any of the side effects persist and cause a person significant distress, it is important to contact their healthcare professional and determine whether it’s necessary to modify the treatment. Side effects like diarrhea and vomiting are particularly dangerous over a prolonged period of time.

Never Neglect Side Effects Of A Medication

Desvenlafaxine is generally safe and effective, and, in some cases, it can be used during pregnancy under a doctor’s supervision. The most common side effects of Pristiq include nausea, constipation, increased anxiety, trouble sleeping, excessive sweating, and sexual problems. Normally, mild adverse symptoms go away on their own as the person gets used to the medication.

Some symptoms, however, are serious and require immediate medical attention. Pristiq is known to increase the likelihood of suicidal behaviors in people younger than 24 years of age. This side effect of desvenlafaxine is particularly pronounced when a person discontinues the treatment suddenly due to a high Pristiq cost or intolerable side effects.

If any of these effects occur, the person should seek help as soon as possible and discuss other treatment options with their healthcare professional. Because of the sudden stop taking medication to self-medicate the side effects, they can become even worse because of withdrawal. That is why it is critical to consult with a doctor or in an addiction treatment center.

Page Sources

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  2. Etminan M, Sodhi M, Procyshyn RM, Guo M, Carleton BC. Risk of hair loss with different antidepressants: a comparative retrospective cohort study. International Clinical Psychopharmacology. 2018; 33(1): 44–48. doi:10.1097/YIC.0000000000000191.
  3. Highlights Of Prescribing Information. Pfizer. 2011.
  4. Rampono J, Teoh S, Hackett LP, Kohan R, Ilett KF. Estimation of desvenlafaxine transfer into milk and infant exposure during its use in lactating women with postnatal depression. Archives of Women's Mental Health. 2011; 14(1): 49–53. doi:10.1007/s00737-010-0188-9.

Published on: February 13th, 2020

Updated on: February 13th, 2020

About Author

Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Nena Messina is a specialist in drug-related domestic violence. She devoted her life to the study of the connection between crime, mental health, and substance abuse. Apart from her work as management at addiction center, Nena regularly takes part in the educational program as a lecturer.


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