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Reproductive & Child Health News

Study Results Show Paxil Safe for Use by Breastfeeding Mothers with Depression
March 13, 2000

For the vast majority of parents, the experience of childbirth and the joy of bringing home a newborn infant is a time of elation and celebration. But for many women, the highs of motherhood are mixed with mood swings and depression. Indeed, postpartum depression is a widespread problem, affecting some 10%-15% of mothers within six months of giving birth. Add to that the experience for many new moms of trying to breastfeed for the first time, and you have a recipe for anxiety.

Now a recent study offers hope for women suffering from this problem who wish to nurse their infants. Emory University School of Medicine physicians showed that breastfed infants of mothers taking the antidepressant drug Paxil (paroxetine) had no detectable traces of the medication in their blood, and experienced no adverse effects of the drug. The results were reported in the February 2000 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The researchers studied the concentration of Paxil in breast milk samples and in the blood of 16 mothers and their infants within 1-5 hours after nursing. The majority of the infants were fully breastfed, with no supplemental formula. They found that the amount of Paxil in breast milk varied greatly, ranging from 2 to 101 ng/ml, with higher amounts in hind milk (the milk that is released toward the end of a feeding session) than foremilk. However, no detectable traces of Paxil were found in the blood samples from the nursing infants. Parents also did not report any changes in the behavior, disposition, sleep patterns, activity, or bowel movements of these infants, nor did their pediatricians communicate any concerns regarding infant growth and development.

"Due to the increased occurrence of mood and anxiety disorders during child-bearing years, it is imperative that we continue to research and make treatment options such as Paxil available for mothers who want the opportunity and benefit of breastfeeding their children," said study leader Dr. Zachary N. Stowe, director of Emory University School of Medicine's Pregnancy and Postpartum Mood Disorders Program. "This study provides compelling data that Paxil is a viable treatment option for mothers who would like to continue breastfeeding."

Manufactured by SmithKline Beecham, Paxil was recently approved by the FDA to treat social anxiety disorder. It is also indicated for depression, panic disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder.


1. Stowe, ZN, et al. Paroxetine in human breast milk and nursing infants. American Journal of Psychiatry 2000;157:185-189.

2. "New Study Shows Paxil Not Found in Breast-Fed Infants of Depressed Mothers." Press release, Emory University School of Medicine, February 2, 2000.

Source: DRUG Infoline on PharmInfoNet

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