Zoloft and Breastfeeding:
What You Need to Know
Many people wonder if taking Zoloft and breastfeeding can be combined. I nursed both my daughters and learned that what you consume yourself ends up in your milk and will eventually be consumed by your baby. In most cases, it is trace amounts but something to be conscious of as a nursing mother. As mentioned below, there have been several studies done to determine the risk to both the mother and the baby.
Impacts on Zoloft and Breastfeeding
Impact on Breast Milk
With respect to anti-depressants, there have only been a few studies done on serotonin reuptake inhibitors, also known as SSRI’s, and their impact on breast milk. SSRI’s include Paxil, Zoloft and Prozac. With this said, they are more commonly prescribed to nursing mothers than the alternatives such as MAIO’s and tricyclics.
In one study done with Paxil, it was determined that approximately 0.34% of a dose was found in the mother’s milk. Okay, this was not done with Zoloft but it is a reference point. Dr. Thomas Hale wrote an article in 1997 stating that, if an anti-depressant was needed, Zoloft is the recommended medication over Prozac. Although he also admits that, at the time, there really were not enough studies to say that conclusively.
In a study done by the American Journal of Psychiatry in 1997* and the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in 2003** it was determined that the drug is found in the breast milk in trace amounts. The main concentration of the milk is found 7 – 10 hours after taking the medication and is found in the fatty, hindmilk. This is the milk that comes after the more watery breast milk. The lowest concentration of the drug is found just before taking the medication again (assuming that it is taken around the same time each day). Of course, this makes sense because around 24 hours have passed.
Impact on the Baby
With respect to the impact on infants, Zoloft and breastfeeding studies have been done and no known adverse effects have been documented. In fact, the baby’s development has been found to be normal even after being exposed to the drug.
I can speak from personal experience. After the birth of my 1st daughter, in May 2004, I experienced postpartum depression and my OB prescribed Zoloft. I didn’t take it for very long. However, prior to taking it, I did a lot of research. Part of that research was determining when the best time would be to take the medication so that I can minimize her exposure to the medication. This is hard to do when you are nursing every 2 hours! However, if you are nursing less frequently you can be more successful limiting their exposure.
If you are considering pairing Zoloft and breastfeeding, talk thoroughly with your doctor first to make sure it is the right choice for you. And, see if your doctor has any updated information on the research that has been done. Consider the benefits compared to the potential risks to you and your baby. It is important to note that Pfizer, the manufacturer, did not do studies on the impact of taking Zoloft and breastfeeding. Hence, they state that nursing mothers should take any potential risks under advisement before deciding to take it while nursing.
Also, you might want to consider other alternatives that do go together such as fish oil and depression, exercise and depression. And there are other natural remedies for depression and herbal remedies for depression to consider as well.
On another note, if you are considering Zoloft for postpartum depression check out my page on signs of postpartum depression.
*(Am J Psychiatry 1997 Sep;154(9):1255-60
**J of Clin Psychiatry 2003 Jan;64(1):73-80
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