Antidepressants and Breastfeeding
Q: My doctor prescribed an antidepressant for me to treat postpartum depression,
but I am breastfeeding my child. Is this safe for the baby?
Dr. Donnica: If you are breastfeeding or if you may be pregnant, you
should always tell your doctor before any medication decisions are made. In
the case of postpartum depression and most antidepressants, you can rest assured
that drug therapy is highly effective and does not necessarily require women
to stop nursing. Even though antidepressant medications all get
into the breast milk, it is unclear that this has any untoward effects on the
baby. (You should discuss this issue with your physician for any prescription
or over-the-counter medication you may take.) The most important health factor
for a baby is having a healthy mother and the effective treatment of your PPD
is very important. However, your doctor should prescribe the lowest effective
dose of antidepressants necessary.
It is often helpful to carefully observe the infant's normal behavior patterns
before mom is treated and then to objectively compare the infant's behavior
after treatment starts to see if there are any noticeable effects.
Various antidepressant medicines have been studied to varying degrees in nursing
mothers and sertraline (Zoloft TM) has often been recommended as the first-line
choice for nursing moms on the basis of several studies (see New England Journal
of Medicine, 7/18/02). No reports of adverse effects in breastfed infants whose
mothers were treated with sertraline (Zoloft) , paroxetine (Paxil), or fluvoxamine
(Luvox) have been published to date. In infants who were breastfed by moms
on fluoxetine (Prozac), colic has been reported in 3 infants, and another report
indicated that these babies gained less weight. Continuous exposure to Prozac
in breast milk is more likely to lead to increased blood levels of the medication
in nursing babies than exposure to other drugs in the Selective Serotonin Reuptake
Tricyclic antidepressants are not typically measurable in breastfed infants
of the moms who take them, although these medicines are not generally considered
as first line therapy for the treatment of depression. Of the choices in this
class of drugs, nortrityline (Pamelor) has been most well studied.
Click here for more information about depression or other mental
Created: 7/30/2002  - Donnica Moore, M.D.