Balancing the antidepressants you need to stay healthy with your desire to breastfeed is tricky. Extra medical support is a must. Know the facts.

Get the Right Help "Pregnant or nursing women really need support from a mental health professional who specializes in the intrapartum and postpartum women," says Kelly A. Hightower, R.N., a certified lactation counselor and owner of Bright Birth in Decatur, GA. Traditional psychiatrists, even those you respect and trust, are often not up on the latest research regarding antidepressants and pregnant or breastfeeding women. Ask your ob-gyn and a lactation counselor for recommendations. Once you have a trusted pro to guide you, you can make educated decisions about your mental health care.

Choose the Right Medication If you need antidepressants, the benefit of taking them outweighs any possible risk, doctors say. While selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac, may slightly delay breast milk production, according to researchers from the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, plenty of women breastfeed successfully while taking the drugs. In fact, studies have shown that SSRIs such as Zoloft are barely detectable in breastmilk. Consult your doctor for the best option for you.

Take the Lowest Dose Possible Many moms are encouraged to slowly reduce their antidepressants during the end of their pregnancy. "This helps minimize the withdrawal effects on the newborn," Hightower says. "The lowest effective antidepressants dose should be the goal."

Time It Right To minimize short-term reactions, take your daily dose of medication right after the baby has breastfed.

Never Go Cold Turkey "That may work for cigarettes, but in this case, you need to be under the supervision of an educated and empathetic care provider," Hightower says. "A mom suffering with untreated depression is more hazardous to herself and her baby than a breastfeeding mom taking antidepressants would be."

Copyright © 2012 Meredith Corporation.

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