Strattera during Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

by on June 16, 2012


Because medications taken by a woman during pregnancy have the potential to affect a developing fetus, the US Food and Drug Administration have assigned drugs various categories detailing whether they have the potential to be harmful during pregnancy or not. Strattera (atamoxetine) has been categorized as a class C drug. This means that there have not been any human studies of adequate quality demonstrating the effects of strattera on the fetus, but animal studies show that there may be harm caused by this medication.

However, the certainty of harm to a human baby is not known because animals may be affected by medications in a different way to humans.

Strattera during Pregnancy

Strattera treats ADHD, a disease that most frequently affects children and adolescents. Therefore, it is not very likely that an individual will become pregnant whilst taking Strattera. Whether the drug should be taken during pregnancy or not depends on the benefits the mother will obtain compared to the risks to the fetus, and a physician will decide this. For example, the mother may be continued on the drug if her ADHD symptoms are very severe and she has difficulty in day to day coping.

Alternatively, other methods of managing her ADHD could be used such as psychological techniques and therapies to improve her behaviour and concentration, and reduce her impulsiveness. It is important to decide whether Strattera is necessary to be taken when pregnant because some animal studies in rats and rabbits have shown that some harm can be caused to a fetus by a mother taking Stattera during pregnancy. However, this was as much higher doses of Strattera than would be taken in humans, and animal physiology is not always the same as in humans.

Strattera and Breastfeeding

Similarly, it is unlikely that a pregnant woman would be taking Strattera because ADHD is a disease commonly of childhood and adolescence. Strattera is present in the breast milk of rats, but no studies have been conducted in humans so we do not know if Strattera is present in human breast milk, or the effects that this would have on a child.

If you are breastfeeding and are taking Strattera, then there are ways that you can minimise the effects of this on your child. You should speak to your doctor about taking the lowest possible dose of Strattera that still controls your symptoms. In addition, it is important to plan at what time of day you will take the medication. If you take it at the beginning of the longest possible time before the child feeds again, for example just after a feed, or when the child is asleep, then the majority of the medication will have cleared from your body before the child feeds again. This will ensure that your baby is exposed to the minimum amount of medication, whilst you still get the drug that you need. Alternatively, other methods of feeding such as bottle feeding could be used instead of breast-feeding if you are taking Strattera and looking after a young child.