Antidepressants Can Affect Breast Feeding

February 3, 2010


If a woman is planning on breast feeding, and has been having treatment for anxiety or depression that involves taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drugs may find that it delays their ability to produce breast milk after their baby is born.

This study at the University of Cincinnati was just reported in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism and its findings are significant.  Although this is only a small study, 87.5% of women on SSRI drugs had delayed milk delivery compared to 43.5% of those not taking the drugs.   Delayed milk production is an early breastfeeding difficulty faced by many women, particularly those who are first term time mothers, and defined as being over 72 hours after giving birth.  This difficulty also contributes to the mother ceasing to breastfeed before the recommended time. These women also are at risk of early cessation of breastfeeding.

SSRI drugs are the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants and are typically used to treat ‘baby blues’ depression.  A more natural solution would be to turn to natural medicine such as St John’s Wort, or more particularly natural progesterone as that is the hormone that drops most dramatically after giving birth and the one that could most help elevate mood without any ill effects for the baby.

Health Bite:

Smoking in Pregnancy can Permanently Affect a Baby’s Blood Pressure

A Swedish study has shown that babies born to women who smoked during pregnancy show evidence of persistent problems in blood pressure regulation that start at birth and get worse throughout their first year.

The study was reported in the journal of the American Heart Association and raises serious concerns that the seeds being sown in pregnancy will reap a lifetime of ill health for the baby. Normally, when a person stands, the heart rate increases and the blood vessels constrict to keep blood flow to the heart and brain and so there is a standard repositioning test to see how a baby’s blood pressure responds to tilting them upright during sleep. The results were dramatically different in those born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy compared to those who did not.

The non-smoking mothers (on average 15 cigarettes a day) saw only a 2% increase in blood pressure in their babies when they were tilted upright at one week of age and later a 10 percent increase in blood pressure at one year. But, the babies of smoking mothers saw the exact opposite with a 10% increase in blood pressure during a tilt at one week and only a 4 percent increase at one year. At three months and one year, the heart rate response to tilting in the tobacco-exposed infants was abnormal and highly exaggerated, researchers reported.

The concern obviously is that early life exposure to tobacco can lead to long-lasting reprogramming of the baby’s blood pressure control mechanisms. The researchers found that such babies have a hyper-reactive system in the first weeks of life because the blood pressure increases too much when they are tilted up, but at one year they under-react and are less effective in adapting to an upright position. Despite any amount of health warnings some mothers still do smoke, and one argument I have heard is that it is better to smoke as it reduces the mother’s stress levels. A stressed mother is certainly not good for the baby, but this research shows the long-term implications are even more serious if she continues to smoke – or those around her do.


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