Background: The treatment of breastfeeding mothers with depression raises several dilemmas, including the possible risk of drug exposure through breast milk for the infant. This article provides background information and presents practical advice and recommendations for the clinician dealing with the treatment of depression and related disorders in the postpartum period.
Methods: An electronic search for relevant articles was performed. As the use of tricyclic antidepressants has considerably decreased during the last decade and no new information on breastfeeding has emerged for the tricyclics in this period, this review exclusively focuses on the newer, non-tricyclic compounds.
Results: Most newer antidepressants produce very low or undetectable plasma concentrations in nursing infants. The highest infant plasma levels have been reported for fluoxetine, citalopram and venlafaxine. Suspected adverse effects have been reported in a few infants, particularly for fluoxetine and citalopram.
Conclusions: Infant exposure of antidepressants through breast milk is generally low to very low. We consider that when antidepressant treatment is indicated in women with postpartum depression, they should not be advised to discontinue breastfeeding. Paroxetine and sertraline are most likely suitable first-line agents. Although some concern has been expressed for fluoxetine, citalopram and venlafaxine, we nevertheless consider that if the mother has been treated with one of these drugs during pregnancy, breast-feeding could also be allowed during continued treatment with these drugs in the postpartum period. However, an individual risk-benefit assessment should always be performed.