Women who have depression symptoms during pregnancy or after childbirth may be reluctant to seek help due to concerns about taking medication while pregnant or breastfeeding. This is understandable; however, it is important to treat depression since it can interfere with the mother’s relationship with her baby, her partner and other family members.
How common is depression during pregnancy and breastfeeding?
Depression during pregnancy and in the year following childbirth (postpartum depression) is common. In Australia, 1 in 10 Australian women experience depression symptoms during pregnancy and 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression symptoms.
What options are there to treat depression symptoms while breastfeeding?
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) recommend psychological therapy or depression medication while breastfeeding depending on the severity of the depression.
What are the drug-free depression treatment options?
Women with mild or moderate depression should undertake psychological treatments in the first instance. These include cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), non-directive counselling and interpersonal therapy (IPT).
The research into the use of TMS as a depression treatment for pregnant or breastfeeding women is limited. One study by Garcia et al. in women with postpartum depression symptoms found that TMS treatment resulted in complete remission for 8 of the 9 women. To date, there have been no adverse effects reported on the babies of women who have received TMS while breastfeeding.
TMS is a safe treatment for breastfeeding mothers suffering from depression.
Which antidepressants are safe while breast feeding?
Depression medication can be considered for women with severe depression symptoms. Depression medication can be present in the breast milk, however most selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) are present in very small amounts and are considered safe. It is important to consider the side effects of any medication and how these may impact the mother. For example, sedation may affect the mother’s ability to nurse during the night.
- Australian depression treatment guidelines
- TMS a drug-free depression treatment
- How antidepressants work
- Read about the latest research findings on TMS therapy
- Eryılmaz G et al. Follow-up study of children whose mothers were treated with transcranial magnetic stimulation during pregnancy: preliminary results. J Neuromod 2015; 18: 255-260.
- Garcia KS et al. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation treats postpartum depression. J Brain Stimul 2010; 3: 36-41.
- Malhi GS et al. Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists clinical practice guidelines for mood disorders. Aust New Zealand J Psych 2015; 49: 1-185.
- Black Dog Institute. The management of antenatal and postnatal depression.
- Beyond blue. Postnatal depression.