Everything You Need To Know About Antidepressants & Breastfeeding

by Mishal Ali Zafar

New moms have it hard sometimes. On top of the physical exhaustion of carrying and delivering a newborn, they now have the responsibility of being the primary caregiver for a tiny human being, along with vast social expectations to meet. It's not always easy, especially for moms dealing with depression, which can manifest after delivery. New mothers struggling with depression may question taking antidepressants due to the concern of the health of their breastfed babies. But can you take antidepressants while breastfeeding?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), one in nine women experience depression before, during, or after pregnancy. John Hopkins Medicine noted that symptoms of postpartum depression (PPD) can include anxiety and nervousness, withdrawing from things that were fun before, loss of energy, thoughts of suicide, or negative feelings towards the baby. The website also explained that PPD can occur due to rapidly changing hormones, and the exhaustion of labor and of taking care of a demanding newborn. For new moms, struggling with depression is hard enough, but the social pressures and attached stigma may create guilt or shame, which can intensify their stress.

Mayo Clinic noted that the typical line of treatment for PPD is psychotherapy and antidepressants. For a a breastfeeding mom, the concern of medications passing through her milk to her baby makes taking antidepressants a questionable option.

In an interview with Romper, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Rachel O'Brien, IBCLC, says that there are safe options out there for breastfeeding moms. "There are quite a few different medications that are considered safe to take while breastfeeding. The amount of medications that passes through breast milk is very small compared to the amount that passes to baby during pregnancy," O'Brien says.

O'Brien also suggests that parents can call Infant Risk on a toll free hotline at 806-352-2519 for questions about breastfeeding on any medication or combination of medications. The American Academy of Pediatrics also suggested in a 2013 report that most immunizations and medications, including antidepressants are safe for lactation.

The choice to take antidepressants should be ultimately decided by a mom and her physician. Parenting and nursing a newborn can be a beautiful experience, and moms should do what they think is right for their babies and themselves, so that they can fully enjoy the magical moments this time can bring.