Women who take a type of antidepressant known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) during pregnancy are far less likely to breast-feed their babies than women who did not take the medication while pregnant, according to a new study.
Researchers with Connecticut Pregnancy Exposure Information Service, a state-funded service that provides women with information about exposures during pregnancy and breast-feeding, pored through data from 466 pregnant women who contacted the CPEIS’ California affiliate over 10 years with questions about a variety of exposures. The results showed that women who took an SSRI at any time during their pregnancy were about 60 percent less likely to nurse their babies compared to women who did not take antidepressants.
Breast-feeding has enormous health benefits for both the mother and the baby. Breast milk contains enzymes and antibiodies, making the infant less likely to have diarrhea, ear infections, respiratory illnesses, allergies, stomach bugs and colds. It also decreases the future risk of obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, childhood leukemia, and other forms of cancer. Breastfeeding also helps build a meaningful bond between mother and child.
Researchers say that women on SSRIs not engaging in this behavior could be explained either by their depression or the mother’s fear of harming her child by exposing her infant to the medication through her breast milk. Experts cannot say for certain that a mother’s antidepressant treatment is completely safe for breast-fed babies. Studies have proven that SSRI use during pregnancy to a higher risk for having a baby with birth defects. SSRIs include Zoloft (sertraline), Prozac (fluoxetine), Paxil (paroxetine), and Celexa (citalopram).
“Our goal is to provide accurate, up-to-date information on breast-feeding while on medications,” said CPEIS coordinator Sharon Voyer Lavigne. “This allows the woman to weigh the benefits of the treatment for her with the potential risks for her infant.”