A new California study has found that women exposed to common antidepressants during pregnancy were significantly less likely to breastfeed their babies compared to unexposed women.
Investigators at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine studied data obtained by counselors at a pregnancy health information toll-line. They followed 466 pregnant women who contacted the pregnancy health information line over a ten year period.
The study specifically examines breastfeeding choices of women exposed to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants at the time of delivery, compared to those who discontinued use of antidepressants earlier in pregnancy, as well as to those women who report not taking antidepressants at all.
The results showed women exposed to an SSRI anytime in pregnancy were about 60 percent less likely to initiate breastfeeding than women who took no antidepressant.
“While the benefits of breastfeeding an infant are very clear, this study suggests that women who are taking antidepressants in pregnancy are not engaging in this behavior as often as we would like to see,” said Christina Chambers Ph.D., M.P.H., professor of pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and co-author of the study.
“Whether this is due to the mother’s fear of harming her baby by breastfeeding while taking the medication, or due to the mother’s depression itself is unclear.”
Researchers believe the findings suggest that women who have depressive disorders and/or take antidepressants in pregnancy may require additional encouragement and support when making the choice to breastfeed an infant.
The results of the study were recently published online in The Journal of Human Lactation.