Mood stabilizers and antipsychotics during breastfeeding: Focus on bipolar disorder

Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2016 Oct;26(10):1562-78. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2016.08.008. Epub 2016 Aug 24.


Breast milk is considered the best source of nutrients and provides much better protection than immune modified milk. However, the postpartum period is a phase of increased risk for all women to experience psychiatric symptoms and recurrences or new episodes of bipolar disorder (BD), especially in those who have discontinued treatment. This is a systematic review of the risks and benefits of mood stabilizers and antipsychotics during breastfeeding as they relate to the health and well-being of mothers and their infants. Evidence-based treatment advice for women with BD during lactation is also provided. This systematic review has been conducted according to the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) statement. We included studies examining the exposure and the effects of antipsychotics and mood stabilizers used to treat BD on infants during breastfeeding clearly reporting the estimated amount of drug or effects on infants. The final selection included 56 studies. The available data supports the use of lithium as a possible treatment option during breastfeeding. Carbamazepine and valproic acid are also considered relatively safe. Lamotrigine can be used but at the lowest doses and considered for individual cases. Among the antipsychotics, quetiapine and olanzapine should be considered as first-line treatment options. Risperidone may be compatible with breastfeeding under medical supervision. Clozapine and amisulpiride are currently contraindicated. Long-term outcome studies evaluating the infant׳s health and psychosocial and cognitive functioning are needed.

Keywords: Antipsychotics; Bipolar disorder; Breastfeeding; Lactation; Mood stabilizers.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antimanic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antimanic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Antimanic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bipolar Disorder / complications
  • Bipolar Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Milk, Human / chemistry
  • Milk, Human / metabolism
  • Postpartum Period


  • Antimanic Agents
  • Antipsychotic Agents