Breastfeeding and Antidepressants
New moms taking certain antidepressant medications may experience delayed lactation after birth, and may need additional help and support to breastfeed their infants successfully, according to research published in the February, 2010 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Scientists at the University of Cincinnati found that certain commonly prescribed antidepressant medications may be linked to a phenomenon known as delayed secretory activation, defined as a delay in the achievement of full milk secretion. Milk-secreting glands are regulated by the neurotransmitter serotonin, a chemical that is also influenced by many antidepressant drugs. Common antidepressant medications, including fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), and paroxetine (Paxil) and others are known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). Not only do these drugs affect mood, emotion, and sleep, they may also affect serotonin regulation in the breast, placing new mothers at greater risk of experiencing delays in establishing a full milk supply.
In this study, researchers evaluated the impact of SSRI drugs on lactation using laboratory studies of human and animal cells and genetically modified mice. Additionally, an observational study evaluated the effects of SSRI drugs on the onset of breast milk production in 431 postpartum women. In this study, median onset of lactation was 85.8 hours after delivery for the SSRI-treated mothers and 69.1 hours for mothers who had not been treated with SSRI drugs. Researchers commonly define delayed secretory activation as the attainment of full milk production that occurs later than 72 hours postpartum.
For many moms-to-be, SSRI medications can be helpful in alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety, and these drugs should never be discontinued without guidance from a physician or other healthcare professional. Successful breastfeeding is possible for women taking these antidepressants, but women and healthcare professionals should be aware that new moms taking SSRIs may experience delays in achieving a full milk supply after the delivery of their babies.