Breastfeeding while on antidepressants


New moms are routinely cautioned that any medications they take may enter breast milk. This makes many moms reconsider taking antidepressants while nursing their babies. New research suggests the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any risk of taking antidepressants while doing so.

Important for women experiencing postpartum depression

Many new moms experience mood swings that develop into longer lasting, more severe forms of depression like postpartum depression. This condition is often treated with counseling and medication, but many moms hesitate to take the meds because of a risk to the baby. But postpartum brings its own risks. The mother’s ability to care for the baby appropriately could be compromised without medications. These moms can experience insomnia, irritability and anger, fatigue, severe mood swings, withdrawal and thoughts of self-harm and harm to baby.

Study initiated to look at repercussions of med cessation

Investigators led by Dr. Luke Grzeskowiak of Robinson Research Institute used data from the Danish National Birth Cohort to study 368 women who were taking antidepressants prior to pregnancy. They found 67% of women stopped taking their drugs once they became pregnant. “A third of the women continued to take antidepressant medication throughout their pregnancy and while breastfeeding and these women were much more successful at maintaining breastfeeding up to and beyond the recommended six months.”

Benefits outweigh risk

“This is a really important message,” noted Dr. Grzeskowiak of their findings.

“The amount of antidepressant medication that finds its way into a mother’s breast milk is very low. On the balance of it, we believe that continuing to take antidepressant medication and maintaining regular breastfeeding will be the best outcome for both the baby and the mother.” Babies who are breastfed have lower risk of ear infection, gastrointestinal infection, diabetes and obesity. For mothers, incidence of breast and ovarian cancer is lower.

Support the mom who needs the extra help

“If [new moms] are taking antidepressants,” said Dr. Brzeskowiak, “they should be supported and encouraged by family members, friends and health care professionals to continue their medication, knowing that breast-feeding outcomes are all-important for them and their child.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Jama Pediatrics


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