Zoloft and Breastfeeding

by on May 21, 2012

Zoloft is commonly prescribed to help people manage their depression or anxiety disorder. It is usually quite safe but there are concerns about women who are breastfeeding using Zoloft.

Zoloft is considered one of the safer antidepressants to use during breastfeeding. The levels of sertraline, the main component in Zoloft, that are found in breast milk are comparatively low to other antidepressants. In fact, the level is so low that it can be hardly detected in the child’s blood stream at all. Demethylsertraline, the chemical that allows the body to metabolize sertraline, can be found in very low levels in the child’s blood stream. Most doctors consider this no risk to the child and consider Zoloft a safe medication to take while breastfeeding.

Levels of Zoloft in Breast Milk

There have been several studies done to understand the levels of Zoloft found in breast milk. In a study where fifteen mothers taking Zoloft had their milk monitored, it was found that an infant would receive about 0.5 percent of the average weight-adjusted dose.

Another study tried to determine when the highest amount of medication would be found in breast milk. It was determined that eight to nine hours after a dose was administered, the medication levels in breast milk would peak. If the milk with the highest concentration of medication was discarded, the infant’s daily dosage would be decreased by seventeen percent.

Possible Side Effects

Some side effects have been observed in a small number of infants who received breast milk with trace amounts of Zoloft in it. There have been reports of benign neonatal sleep myocionus and agitation.

There have been studies to observe a child’s reaction to Zoloft in breast milk. The amount of sertraline, or Zoloft, in the blood stream is just too small to cause abnormal effects in infants. In an unmonitored survey, only ten percent of mothers indicated any withdrawal symptoms, irritability, uncontrollable crying and sleeping disorders, in infants when the mother stopped taking Zoloft.

Consult a Doctor

Women taking Zoloft should consult with their doctor before beginning breastfeeding. There may be an alternative drug, such as Nortiyptyline or Paroxetine, that may pose less of a potential risk to the infant. In one study, women taking Zoloft experienced delayed milk secretory activation, which can cause delayed feeding behavior in the infants. This can lower the infant’s weight, decrease bonding with the mother and increase the chance of postpartum depression in the mother.

A doctor should be consulted before the child is born, if possible. Though it doesn’t appear to cause any known side effects, it is important that the child’s doctor is aware of what medications may be in its blood stream.

Zoloft and breastfeeding appear to have no negative long term effects on infants. A doctor should still be consulted to ensure there are no adverse effects on an individual child.