Antidepressants: Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Risk Categories

Prozac PillsWhich antidepressant medications are safe to take during pregnancy? Which antidepressant medications are safe to take while breastfeeding? In general, antidepressants are considered safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding because the effects on an infant of untreated depression in the mother are significant and hazardous. The effects of antidepressant medications are usually less hazardous than the effects of untreated depression. More information can be found on websites such as for those who are looking to get a prescription. It must be stressed that any form of potential medication must be discussed with a doctor first, especially during pregnancy, do not just take it.

The two lingering concerns about antidepressants during pregnancy and breastfeeding include neonatal withdrawal syndrome and primary pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN). A pregnant or breastfeeding mother should work with her doctor to determine the best treatment for her depression, carefully weighing the benefits and risks of medication versus no medication.

Learn about the safety of the most common pain antidepressant medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding with the following general overview.

MedicationPregnancy Risk CategoryBreastfeeding Risk Category
(Elavil, Endep, Vanatrip)
(Aplenzin, Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin SR, Wellbutrin XL)
(Norpramin, Pertofrane)
CL3 (in older infants)
(Prozac, Rapiflux, Sarafem, Selfemra)
CL2 (in older infants)
L3 (in neonates)
(Tofranil, Tofranil-PM)
(Aventyl, Pamelor)
(Paxil, Pexeva)
(Desyrel, Oleptro)


Pregnancy Risk Categories

A. Controlled Studies Show No Risk

Adequate, well-controlled studies in pregnant women have failed to demonstrate a risk to the fetus in any trimester of pregnancy.


B. No Evidence of Risk in Humans

Adequate, well-controlled studies in pregnant women have not shown increased risk of fetal abnormalities despite adverse findings in animals, or, in the absence of adequate human studies, animal studies show no fetal risk. The chance of fetal harm is remote but remains a possibility.

C. Risk Cannot Be Ruled Out


Adequate,well-controlled human studies are lacking, and animal studies have shown a risk to the fetus or are lacking as well. There is a chance of fetal harm if the drug is administered during pregnancy, but the potential benefits may outweigh the potential risks.

D. Positive Evidence of Risk

Studies in humans, or investigational or post-marketing data, have demonstrated fetal risk. Nevertheless, potential benefits from the use of the drug may outweigh the potential risk. For example, the drug may be acceptable if needed in a life-threatening situation or serious disease for which safer drugs cannot be used or are ineffective.

X. Contraindicated in Pregnancy

Studies in animals or humans, or investigational or post-marketing reports, have demonstrated positive evidence of fetal abnormalities or risks which clearly outweighs any possible benefit to the patient.

Breastfeeding Risk Categories

L1. Safest

Drug which has been taken by a large number of breastfeeding mothers without any observed increase in adverse effects in the infant. Controlled studies in breastfeeding women fail to demonstrate a risk to the infant and the possibility of harm to the breastfeeding infant is remote, or the product is not orally bioavailable in an infant.

L2. Safer

Drug which has been studied in a limited number of breastfeeding women without an increase in adverse effects in the infant; and/or, the evidence of a demonstrated risk which is likely to follow use of this medication in a breastfeeding woman is remote.

L3. Moderately Safe

There are no controlled studies in breastfeeding women; however, the risk of untoward effects to a breastfed infant is possible; or, controlled studies show only minimal non-threatening adverse effects. Drugs should be given only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the infant.

L4. Possibly Hazardous

There is positive evidence of risk to a breastfed infant or to breastmilk production, but the benefits of use in breastfeeding mothers may be acceptable despite the risk to the infant (e.g. if the drug is needed in a life-threatening situation or for a serious disease for which safer drugs cannot be used or are ineffective).

L5. Contraindicated

Studies in breastfeeding mothers have demonstrated that there is significant and documented risk to the infant based on human experience, or it is a medication that has a high risk of causing significant damage to an infant. The risk of using the drug in breastfeeding women clearly outweighs any possible benefit from breastfeeding. The drug is contraindicated in women who are breastfeeding an infant.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not meant to replace the professional medical advice from your health care provider. For detailed information on specific medications or for information on medications not listed, please consult your health care provider.


ACOG guidelines on psychiatric medication use during pregnancy and lactation:
Antidepressant use during pregnancy: Current controversies and treatment strategies:
Hale, Thomas W. 2004. Medications and mothers’ milk. Amarillo, Texas: Pharmasoft Medical Publishing.
Information for clinicians on antidepressants during pregnancy and breast feeding – June 2009:
Lactation risk categories:
Pregnancy risk categories:
Using antidepressants in breastfeeding mothers:

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Written by Heather Johnson

Heather is a writer, librarian, linguist, wife, and mother who loves her husband, children, dogs, and cats. She has a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in creative writing and master's degrees in library and information science and English studies with a concentration in linguistics.

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