Antidepressants May Increase How Long Mothers Breastfeed

Breastfeeding outcomes improved in women who continued antidepressant use during and after pregnancy

(RxWiki News) Mothers who take prescription medications often worry if they can breastfeed their baby. Stopping antidepressant use may not be necessary and may even help breastfeeding.

A recent scientific study reported that women who kept taking antidepressants during pregnancy and after baby’s birth were more successful at breastfeeding than those who stopped their medication.

"Ask your obstetrician about antidepressant use during and after pregnancy."

Luke Grzeskowiak, PhD, from the School of Paediatrics and Reproductive Health at The Robinson Research Institute of The University of Adelaide in Australia, presented this research at a conference in Australia.

Dr. Grzeskowiak’s research team looked at whether continuing or stopping use of antidepressants during breastfeeding and pregnancy made a difference in whether a woman continued to breastfeed at least up to 6 months.

The research team compared 120 women who used prenatal (during pregnancy) and postnatal (after birth) antidepressants with 248 women who used antidepressants during the prenatal program only. These groups were compared with 373 women with prenatal depression who did not take antidepressant medications during pregnancy.

The team found that women who continued to take antidepressant medications while breastfeeding were 18 percent more likely to keep breastfeeding their baby for up to 6 months or longer compared to women who stopped taking their medications.

About 70 percent of women who took their medication during pregnancy and in the postnatal period continued breastfeeding up to 6 months. A little more than half of the women who took their medications during pregnancy or stopped taking their medications when pregnant breastfed their babies for this amount of time.

“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," Dr. Grzeskowiak said in a press statement.

“This is a really important message because we know that breastfeeding has immense benefits for the child and the mum herself, including a degree of protection against post-natal depression,” he said.

The research results were presented the week of April 6th at the 18th Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand (PSANZ) Annual Conference in Perth, Australia. All findings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Funding for the research was provided by the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Review Date: 
April 14, 2014