Antidepressant medication during pregnancy and breastfeeding
Information for pregnant women
During your pregnancy it is really important for you to have a stable mood and be comfortable on your antidepressant medication as part of providing a safe environment for your baby.
Taking antidepressant medication during your pregnancy
Mood and anxiety disorders need to be treated appropriately during pregnancy. This could include the need for antidepressant medication which is safe, effective and not addictive. Among the antidepressant medications often prescribed to treat mood and anxiety disorders are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) and Selective Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRI).
Babies can be exposed to these medications because they cross the placenta. Exposure to antidepressant medication in late pregnancy can result in your baby having “discontinuation syndrome”.
Symptoms of discontinuation syndrome occur in up to one in three babies who have been exposed to SSRI or SNRI medication. Symptoms are usually mild and disappear within a few days. However, moderate to severe symptoms have also been reported. These symptoms include respiratory problems, temperature changes, feeding difficulties, vomiting, tremors, jitteriness, prolonged or constant crying, muscle tone changes, irritability, seizures, settling difficulties, floppiness, rigidity, low blood sugars and jaundice. In a small proportion of babies, symptoms are severe enough to require admission to a neonatal unit for treatment.
If you are taking SSRI or SNRI antidepressant medication antenatally, please ensure your doctor, and/or midwife is notified. You are encouraged to speak with your prescribing doctor about the possible risks and benefits of using antidepressant medications in pregnancy. Any adjustments in dose should take place under the supervision of your doctor and we strongly recommend against reducing or ceasing your medication without supervision.
The National Prescribing Service Medicines Information line 1300 888 763 can also help answer questions you might have about the safety of your antidepressant medication during pregnancy. You may also be offered an appointment with a lactation consultant.
Postnatally, ensure you continue to take your antidepressant medication as prescribed. If you need pain relief, your doctor will prescribe treatment that is compatible with your medication. Please ask for help from your midwife if you need support or assistance with breastfeeding or other baby cares. If required a referral can be made to Mater's Consultation Liaison Psychiatry (CLP) team.
Care of your baby
We recommend that you and your baby should remain on the postnatal ward for three days, and you will be reviewed daily by a doctor. If you and your baby are discharged before day three you will be offered referral to Mater Mothers' Hospitals Homecare Program (HCP). Unless there are other medical concerns, your baby will be observed during normal mother/baby/midwife contact and will have regular monitoring of their temperature, heart rate and breathing. Extra monitoring may be required to ensure other signs of discontinuation syndrome are not missed. Please report any concerns you may have about your baby to your midwife.
The paediatrician will check your baby during their admission and will ensure a discharge plan is in place including referral to child health or an early appointment back to your general practitioner.
Please make an appointment to see your GP within one week of discharge. We also advise you to make an appointment with your prescribing doctor once you are discharged from Mater Mothers' Hospitals for the purpose of reviewing your antidepressant medication dose.
Some useful contact phone numbers:
Child Health Line
07 3862 2333 or 1800 177 279
Beyondblue info line
1300 224 636
Australian Breastfeeding Association Helpline
07 3844 8977
Queensland Lactation Consultants
07 3396 9718
Medicines Line (Mon—Fri 9am–6 pm)
1300 888 763
Mental Health Services (Princess Alexandra Hospital)
1300 858 998
Metro South Perinatal Mental Health
07 3176 1156
Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists. Practice Guidelines. GUIDANCE ON THE USE OF SSRIS AND VENLAFAXINE (SNRI) IN LATE PREGNANCY. December 2005. Cited on 29/9/2008 at: https://www.ranzcp.org/Publications/Guidelines-for-clinical-practice.aspx
Beyondblue. The National depression Initiative. Emotional Health During Pregnancy and Early Parenthood. 2008. www.beyondblue.org.au
Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Mater Doc Num: HOSP-002-00824
Last modified 18/11/2015.