How Mental Illness & its Treatment Affect Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
Disclaimer: This page houses important information and resources pertaining to mental health during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, including links to our evidence-based Fact Sheets. However, the resources here should not replace the care and advice of a medical professional.
Reference: Vesga-Lopez et al., 2008
Mental illness can be a serious medical condition and includes disorders such as anxiety, depression, bipolar, attention deficit and/or hyperactivity (ADD/ADHD), post-traumatic stress (PTSD), schizophrenia, substance use and addiction, and eating disorders. The chance for a person to develop a mental illness during her lifetime is about 10-25%, and the highest risk occurs during the childbearing years. Taking care of your mental health during pregnancy and while breastfeeding is important for you as well as your developing baby.
Changing hormones during pregnancy can cause mental health conditions that have been treated in the past to come back (this is called a relapse). [People] with mental health conditions are also at higher risk of problems during pregnancy.— U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Women’s Health
Many people are diagnosed with and treated for mental health issues before they become pregnant. Others may develop mental health issues during or after pregnancy due to changes in hormone levels and/or the stress that comes with this major life event (e.g., postpartum depression; depression, anxiety, or PTSD due to pregnancy loss). Regardless of when or how it develops, it is critically important to talk with your healthcare provider about how you are feeling and any problems or symptoms you may be having. Untreated mental illnesses often have their own risks for people who are pregnant and/or breastfeeding and their infants; for example, untreated depression and anxiety has been linked to an increased risk of preterm birth, lower birth weight, and lower Apgar scores.
Are You In Crisis?
If you are in crisis, it is very important that you reach out now and find the support and information that you need to be safe. Contact your health provider, a local emergency number, or one of the following National Emergency Hotlines.
National Crisis Text Line
Text HOME to 741741
Anywhere in the U.S., anytime, about any type of crisis.
National Maternal Mental Health Hotline
1-833-9-HELP4MOMS | https://mchb.hrsa.gov/national-maternal-mental-health-hotline
24/7, Free, confidential hotline for pregnant and new moms in English and Spanish.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline and Website
Call 1.800.273.8255 | www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Free, confidential, and available 24/7.
Network of more than 140 crisis centers nationwide.
Please see our library of resources below on mental health during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Related Fact Sheets
- Atomoxetine (Strattera®)
- Bupropion (Wellbutrin®)
- Chlordiazepoxide (Librium®)
- Cigarette Smoke
- Citalopram | Escitalopram (Celexa® | Lexapro®)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin®)
- Desipramine (Norpramin®, Pertofrane®)
- Diazepam (Valium®)
- Duloxetine (Cymbalta®)
- E-cigarettes (Vaping)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac®)
- Fluphenazine (Prolixin®, Permitil®)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid®)
- Imipramine (Tofranil®)
- Ketamine (Ketalar®)
- Lamotrigine (Lamictal®)
- Lurasidone (Latuda®)
- Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD)
- MDMA (Molly, Ecstasy)
- Marijuana (Cannabis)
- Methylphenidate (Ritalin®)
- Mirtazapine (Remeron®)
- Olanzapine (Zyprexa®)
- Opioids | Narcotics
- Oxcarbazepine (Trileptal®, Oxtellar XR®)
- Quetiapine (Seroquel®)
- Risperidone (Risperdal®)
- Sertraline (Zoloft®)
- St. John’s Wort
- Valproic Acid
- Venlafaxine (Effexor®)
- Ziprasidone (Geodon®)
Related Baby Blogs
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Depression and Anxiety during Pregnancy and After Birth – FAQs
- American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology: Depression Frequently Asked Questions
- American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology: Postpartum Depression Frequently Asked Questions
- March of Dimes: Depression during Pregnancy
- March of Dimes: Street Drugs and Pregnancy
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: About Mental Illness
- National Eating Disorders Association: Pregnancy and Eating Disorders
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: Substance Use While Pregnant and Breastfeeding
- Postpartum Support International: Bipolar Mood Disorders
- Postpartum Support International: Pregnancy and Postpartum Mental Health
- Postpartum Support International: Help for Parents: PSI Helpline
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: National Helpline for Treatment Referral and Information: 1.800.662.HELP (4357)
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Women’s Health: Reproductive Health and Mental Health