Antidepressant treatment during breast-feeding

Am J Psychiatry. 1996 Sep;153(9):1132-7. doi: 10.1176/ajp.153.9.1132.


Objective: The primary purpose of this article is to review critically the literature about use of antidepressants during lactation. Strategies for the clinical management of depressed breast-feeding mothers are also suggested.

Method: The authors conducted a computerized search of MEDLINE for articles. The review includes studies in which serum levels of drugs were obtained from nursing infants.

Results: Fifteen published reports were located that provided information for the following nine antidepressants: amitriptyline, nortriptyline, desipramine, clomipramine, doxepin, dothiepin, fluoxetine, sertraline, and bupropion.

Conclusions: Amitriptyline, nortriptyline, desipramine, clomipramine, dothiepin, and sertraline were not found in quantifiable amounts in nurslings, and no adverse effects were reported. Therefore, these are the drugs of choice for breast-feeding women. Adverse effects were described in some young infants whose mothers had been treated with doxepin or fluoxetine during breast-feeding. The collective serum level data suggest that infants older than 10 weeks are at low risk for adverse effects of tricyclics, and there is no evidence of accumulation. Research needs include an expanded database of mother-baby serum levels, behavioral assessments of infants during nursing, and longitudinal developmental evaluation of nurslings. Prescription of an antidepressant for a breast-feeding woman is a case-specific risk-benefit decision.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Antidepressive Agents / analysis
  • Antidepressive Agents / blood
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic / analysis
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic / blood
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic / therapeutic use
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Depression, Postpartum / blood
  • Depression, Postpartum / drug therapy*
  • Doxepin / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Fluoxetine / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn / blood
  • Lactation / blood
  • Milk, Human / chemistry
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Assessment


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic
  • Fluoxetine
  • Doxepin