Is It Safe To Take Zoloft While Breastfeeding?

Postpartum mood disorders are fairly common, affecting 13% of people who give birth in the United States, according to a survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Screening for depressive symptoms both before and after childbirth is important for getting the appropriate diagnosis and treatment, which can be lifesaving. Some people who experience postpartum depression are treated with a combination of psychotherapy and antidepressants (via Mayo Clinic). However, whatever medication you take will enter your breast milk if you're breastfeeding. Zoloft is a common treatment for depression and other mental health conditions, but is it safe to take while breastfeeding?

Zoloft, the brand name of the drug sertraline, is often used to treat a number of mental health disorders, such as major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder, according to MedlinePlus. It can cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking it suddenly, so it's important to speak to your doctor if you're considering becoming pregnant or if you choose to breastfeed.

Often, a doctor will only recommend you take a medication while breastfeeding if the benefits outweigh the risks (via Healthline). If postpartum depression goes untreated, it can have serious consequences. A mother with this condition may not be able to care for or bond with their baby, and they may have suicidal ideations.

The benefits of taking Zoloft while breastfeeding

While Zoloft does pass into breast milk, it's not enough to outweigh the benefits of treating postpartum depression (per Healthline). A 2015 study published in the Archive of Women's Mental Health found that only small amounts are present in milk, with levels peaking about 8-9 hours after taking a dose. The benefits of breastfeeding are also vast, so continuing to nurse your baby is valuable, if that option is available. Benefits include various nutritional and health advantages, increased attachment, and opportunities for parent-baby bonding, per Healthline.

However, there may be some side effects of taking Zoloft while breastfeeding that you should be aware of. It may cause slightly decreased milk production, lack of appetite, nausea, fatigue, insomnia, increased sweating and urination, and decreased sex drive. Rarely, it may worsen depression symptoms or cause increased thoughts of suicide, in which case you should contact your doctor immediately. Other ways of treating postpartum depression include joining new parent support groups, getting regular exercise, massage therapy, and meditation.