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Study: 'Benefits Outweigh Risks' for Breast-Feeding Moms on Antidepressants

Benefits outweigh risks of taking antidepressants while breastfeeding
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

It's been a hot-button topic for years, but at least some new evidence will leave many moms out there breathing a sigh of relief. According to a study presented at the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand Annual Conference in Perth, the benefits do in fact outweigh the risks when it comes to breast-feeding while taking antidepressants.

While the Mayo Clinic is still quick to note that any presence of medication in mom has potential risks of reaching her baby, we can't forget that postpartum depression also comes with its own set of troubling symptoms that can affect the child, too—like insomnia, mood swings and exhaustion. And let's not forget, tragic thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby.

In total, 67 percent of women in the study stopped their medication altogether once they became pregnant or started breast-feeding. For moms-to-be who stopped taking antidepressants once they first became pregnant, they were far less likely to continue breast-feeding for the recommended six months, or even try it at all.

But according to Dr. Luke Grzeskowiak of the Robinson Research Institute at the University of Adelaide in Australia, those who did continue their meds fared far better. "A third of the women (33 percent) continued to take antidepressant medication throughout their pregnancy and while breast-feeding, and these women were much more successful at maintaining breast-feeding up to and beyond the recommended six months," said Grzeskowiak, who led the study.

The message here? Let's stop passing judgment, and start supporting moms who are suffering from far more than just the baby blues.

"If [new moms] are taking antidepressants," says Grzeskowiak, "they should be supported and encouraged by family members, friends and health care professionals to continue their medication, knowing that good breast-feeding outcomes are all-important for them and their child."

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