Treating Depression While Breastfeeding

Nursing Moms Need Not Fear Taking Certain Antidepressants, Scientists Say

From the WebMD Archives

May 19, 2003 (San Francisco) -- Moms who are suffering from "baby blues" can safely take certain medications without fear for treating depression while breastfeeding. The newer antidepressants do not cross into mother's milk, according to a report at the 156th meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.

A mother who is breastfeeding may be concerned about the safety of antidepressants in breast milk. The most widely recommended drugs for treating postpartum depression are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs.

Norwegian scientists presented a study in which they collected samples of breast milk from 23 women breastfeeding their babies.

The mothers were all taking one of several newer drugs for treating depression while breastfeeding. Blood samples from the moms and their babies showed that the drug did not cross into the breast milk in appreciable amounts and that the babies did not have significant amounts of the drugs in their blood.

"I think its pretty safe" for mothers to take these drugs and nurse, says study investigator Jan Oystein Berle, MD, a research fellow at the University of Bergen in Norway.


Not only do his current data support safe breastfeeding, but Berle tells WebMD that several studies also show that women who take these drugs while pregnant do not risk birth defects for their children.

The findings are good news for mothers who might be concerned about treating depression while breastfeeding. Most of them want to breastfeed their infants, said Roger Samuel, MD, who is in private practice in Boca Raton, Fla.

"One way to get a depressed woman to connect with her child is to (have her) breastfeed." And based on this study, Samuel tells WebMD, "you can reasonably assure them it's a good option."

The drugs studied by the Norwegian scientists included Celexa, Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, and Effexor.

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SOURCES: 156th meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, San Francisco, May 17-22, 2003. Jan Oystein Berle, MD, research fellow, University of Bergen, Norway. Roger Samuel, MD, Boca Raton, Fla.
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