Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 9/5/2022
If you have recently had a baby and are breastfeeding — or thinking about breastfeeding when you have a baby — you may wonder what antidepressant medications are safe to take. After all, you have to be careful about what could potentially pass to your baby through your breast milk supply.
One popular antidepressant is Zoloft. If you are taking Zoloft now and are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed, you should familiarize yourself with potential risks and adverse effects for nursing babies.
To learn more about Zoloft and whether medication exposure for a nursing infant is okay, keep reading.
Zoloft — and the generic version, sertraline — is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which is one class of antidepressants.
This medication can be used to treat depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder and panic disorder or panic attacks.
It generally takes four to six weeks of taking it before you may notice any effects.
Like with many medications, there are some side effects associated with taking Zoloft. They are usually mild and will subside after taking it for a bit.
Common side effects include:
Bowel movement changes, like diarrhea or constipation
Nausea or vomiting
Sexual side effects
Occasionally, people experience more serious adverse effects when taking Zoloft. These may include:
Severe muscle stiffness or twitching
If you notice any of these symptoms, get a mental health consultation as soon as you can. You should also contact a healthcare professional if you have more common side effects but they are severe or don’t go away.
There aren’t all that many studies that have looked at taking Zoloft while breastfeeding — or even how antidepressants in general pass through human breast milk.
Here’s what you need to know: The research that has been done found that a small amount of medication can pass through breast milk. In fact, some studies have found that babies who breastfeed from women taking Zoloft may not have any detectable antidepressant levels in their system, while others have only very low levels of Zoloft. This seems to be true no matter what the mother’s Zoloft dosage levels are.
The only exception may be preterm infants with impaired metabolic activity, who in rare cases can have withdrawal symptoms from exposure to sertraline in breast milk.
But because only very low levels — if any — have been reported to pass through breast milk, Zoloft is considered a “first-line” antidepressant medication for breastfeeding women.
Women may take Zoloft for any of the reasons listed previously, including depression and anxiety disorders. It may also be used in the postpartum period for depression because it doesn’t appear to have adverse effects for nursing babies who breastfeed. Postpartum depression affects nearly 22 percent of women in the first year after birth, so it’s helpful to know of a medication that won’t lead to dangerous exposure for a breastfeeding baby.
Zoloft is an antidepressant medication that can be prescribed to treat mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. It’s also commonly prescribed to treat postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety.
If you are breastfeeding, you have to be aware of what could potentially pass through your milk supply to your infant. The good news is that babies do not seem to experience negative effects if their mother takes Zoloft while breastfeeding.
If you’re pregnant, have recently given birth, or are even several months postpartum and are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, or the baby blues, you should reach out to a psychiatrist. They will be able to guide you on what medications are safe to take whether you choose to exclusively breastfeed or want to breastfeed while supplementing with formula.