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Antidepressants Can Delay Breastfeeding


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

New moms who take commonly used forms of antidepressant drugs may delay the postpartum production of breast milk and may need extra support to breastfeed, a new research finds.

Many women, and particularly those who are known as primiparous, are more vulnerable to experience difficulty with early breastfeeding as milk secretion is delayed beyond 72 hours among them. These moms are also at risk of the early cessation of breastfeeding. According to the study, delayed secretion of breast milk was commonly reported in mothers who were treated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants.

While SSRI drugs can affect a woman's mood, her emotions and sleep habits, they may also affect regulation of serotonin in the breast, placing new mothers at greater risk of a delay in the establishment of a full milk supply, said a co-author of the new study, Dr. Nelson D. Horseman, PhD, of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicin. SSRIs are the most widely prescribed antidepressants, including the drugs such as Zoloft, Celexa, Prozac, Paxil, and Lexapro.

In their research, Dr. Horseman and fellow colleagues analyzed the effects of SSRI drugs on lactation using laboratory studies of human and animal cell lines as well as genetically modified mice. Furthermore, they also examined the impact of SSRI drugs on the onset of milk production in 431 women after they gave birth. All the new mothers in the study were eventually able to breastfeed, whether they were taking antidepressants or not. But the average time to lactation for the 8 women who were taking SSRI drugs was almost a day later when compared to the average time it took women who did not take the antidepressants to establish a milk supply. In particular, of 431 new mothers in the study, median onset of lactation was 85.8 hours after birth among those who used SSRIs and 69.1 hours for mothers who were not treated with SSRI drugs.

According to the scientists, SSRI antidepressant drugs are very helpful medications for many new mothers, so understanding and ameliorating difficulties women experience after giving birth can help them achieve their goals for breastfeeding their newborns. Researchers say that more studies and research are needed before any specific recommendations are made regarding SSRI use during the time of lactation.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Canadian Pediatric Society and Health Canada all recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of a newborn child's life. Breast milk is considered best for a baby because the fluid meets a newborn's nutritional needs, is easily digested, and contains antibodies that prevent infections and other diseases, while also promoting the mother's health.

The new study will be published in the February issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

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