REVIEW OF OPHTHALMIC AND BREASTFEEDING MEDICINE EVIDENCE: Real and Theoretical Risks of Intravitreal Anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Administration in Lactating Women

Retina. 2020 Nov;40(11):2065-2069. doi: 10.1097/IAE.0000000000002946.


Background/purpose: There is limited research regarding the consequences of treating lactating mothers with intravitreal anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) agents. Balancing the need for vision-saving treatment, the benefits of breastfeeding, and the concern for affecting the newborn can present a conflict for both mothers and ophthalmologists. This review summarizes the state of the literature regarding the use of intravitreal anti-VEGF agents during breastfeeding along with details about their pharmacology.

Results: Bevacizumab and aflibercept have Fc domains subjecting them to FcRn recycling and extending their half-life compared with ranibizumab which is an antibody fragment and lacks the Fc domain. Case reports and small studies have shown that ranibizumab has the lowest serum concentration after intravitreal injection and the least effect on plasma-free VEGF concentrations and breastmilk VEGF levels.

Conclusion: Clinical and pharmacologic data suggest that ranibizumab has less systemic circulation and effect on maternal serum and breastmilk VEGF levels when compared to bevacizumab and aflibercept. However, there is significant need for further research on the degree and duration to which intravitreal agents circulate systemically, what fraction is transferred into breastmilk and is absorbed, and whether this results in any functional adverse effects to the infant. Other factors to consider in the medical decision-making of lactating mothers necessitating intravitreal anti-VEGF treatment include the gestational and post-natal age of the child and whether it is feasible to avoid breastfeeding for the half-life duration of the intravitreal agent rather than ceasing breastfeeding altogether.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / pharmacokinetics*
  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Bevacizumab / pharmacokinetics
  • Bevacizumab / therapeutic use
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Choroid Diseases / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intravitreal Injections
  • Lactation / metabolism
  • Milk, Human / metabolism*
  • Ranibizumab / pharmacokinetics
  • Ranibizumab / therapeutic use
  • Receptors, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor / therapeutic use
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / pharmacokinetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Retinal Diseases / drug therapy
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism


  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • VEGFA protein, human
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • aflibercept
  • Bevacizumab
  • Receptors, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor
  • Ranibizumab