Antidepressants And Breastfeeding- What You Need To Know

Antidepressants and Breastfeeding- What You Need To Know

Did you know that nearly 2 in 10 women experience some form of postpartum depression? Additionally, 68% of mothers experience moderate to severe anxiety. While it is not unusual to have some feelings of anxiety or sadness after giving birth, medical intervention may need to be considered if these feelings persist or start to affect a new parent’s day-to-day functioning. Postpartum depression and other postpartum mental health challenges typically respond best to a combination of medication and psychotherapy.

The idea of introducing a new medication can be intimidating as a breastfeeding parent! Is it okay to continue/start taking medication? Will it impact milk supply? Could it hurt the baby? What medications are safe while breastfeeding? Questions quickly begin to accumulate. While it is best to speak to your healthcare provider, we will provide some basic insight for you- keep on reading!

What Are Antidepressants And What Do They Do?

The human brain uses chemical messengers called neurotransmitters to regulate our emotions. You may have heard of some of these neurotransmitters, like serotonin or dopamine.  Antidepressant medications affect the amount of neurotransmitters that concentrate in certain parts of the brain, which in turn affects our mood. These types of medications are often used to treat clinical depression, general anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and some other conditions like certain types of chronic pain. 

While antidepressants can treat the symptoms of anxiety and depression, they do not typically resolve their root cause. For this reason, most healthcare providers recommend that antidepressants are used in conjunction with some form of psychotherapy, like individual counseling.

Can I Take Antidepressant Medication While Breastfeeding?

All antidepressants can be passed through breast milk. However, the actual amount that is transferred is typically low, making many considered generally safe for nursing moms and infants. Of course, it is vital that you tell your doctor that you are nursing, as there are certain antidepressants that are not recommended for breastfeeding moms. There are so many factors that go into determining which antidepressant is right for you, including your breastfeeding schedule, how much your baby is eating, and overall milk yield. So please be sure to share all of this information with your provider!

Doctors typically prescribe SSRIs such as sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil) or escitalopram (Lexapro) for those breastfeeding because they have been shown to have the fewest adverse effects on mom and baby. 

Does Antidepressant Medication Affect The Baby?

Certain medications like fluoxetine (Prozac), oxazepam, diazepam, and alprazolam (Xanax) are not as often recommended as studies show they can cause symptoms like sedation and irritability in breastfed infants. 

When taking any antidepressant, it is important to monitor your infant for side effects. If you notice them experiencing colic, irritability, drowsiness or poor feeding, speak to your prescribing doctor as soon as possible. However, try to avoid abruptly stopping your medication, as certain antidepressants can have unpleasant withdrawal effects if they are not slowly tapered off.

Can I Continue The Antidepressants I Took While Pregnant?

In most cases, yes! The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine states, “Mothers who were being treated with a [SSRI], tricyclic antidepressant, or [SNRI] during pregnancy with good symptom control should continue on the same agent during breastfeeding. It is important to reassure the mother that exposure to the antidepressant in breast milk is far less than exposure to the antidepressant during pregnancy”. As always, check in with your healthcare provider. 

Can I Donate Breast Milk While On Antidepressants?

This actually depends on your local milk bank. Some places do not accept milk from mothers taking certain antidepressants. If you are on any medications, it is best to call your milk bank to see what their restrictions are! 

The Takeaway

Breastfeeding should not stop you from receiving the treatment you need. Be honest to your provider with how you are feeling, and determine a plan of action to best aid your situation. Never feel ashamed for taking medication, you are doing what is best for you and your family!

Looking to talk to other moms and a lactation consultant about your breastfeeding experience? Consider attending our FREE virtual support group.

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***The information provided on our website is intended solely for general educational and informational purposes only. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician for any questions you may have regarding your or your child’s medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have received in this information.***