Is It Safe To Take Wellbutrin (Buproprion) When Breastfeeding?

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After delivery, a few mothers may slip into depression due to the additional responsibilities with an infant. As a result, doctors may prescribe an antidepressant, Bupropion, marketed under Wellbutrin. If you wonder if this drug is safe, this post on “Wellbutrin while breastfeeding” answers your query. A small amount of Wellbutrin may reach the baby through the breastmilk. This could concern a few mothers, making them stop their intake. However, learning more about the drug and its side effects could help you decide better since your overall well-being is also a priority. Here’s all you need to know about it when nursing and a few tips for its safe intake.

What is Wellbutrin?

Wellbutrin, the drug name being bupropion, is a medication indicated for the treatment of seasonal affective disorder and depression. Buproprion is also available under the trade names Zyban, Forfivo XL, Buproban, Budeprion and Aplenzin.

The medication is available as Wellbutrin, Wellbutrin XL and Wellbutrin SR, and the generic bupropion. They vary in the way the chemical enters the body. For instance, Wellbutrin, Zyban and generic bupropion are classified under “immediate release” bupropion, Wellbutrin SR as “intermediate release” and Wellbutrin XL as “extended release”.

What do these various ‘release’ mean? Immediate release means that the formulation of the drug is released into the bloodstream immediately, for a short span. The SR formulation mixes in the blood gradually in 12 hours while XL takes 24 hours.

Wellbutrin belongs to the antidepressant class of drugs called norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRI). These help in balancing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, the neurotransmitters in the brain that enhance your mood (1).

Keep reading to learn if a breastfeeding mother can have it as an anti-depressant.

Is Wellbutrin Safe While Breastfeeding?

Yes. In most cases, Buproprion is not harmful to the baby, as the drug enters the breast milk in small amounts. A nursing mother need not stop breastfeeding her baby while taking the drug. However, make sure to check for any reactions in your baby. Observe him keenly. Check for the symptoms such as vomiting, sedation, diarrhea, and jitteriness. Measuring serum levels may rule out toxicity concerns.

According to Dr. Hale of Hale’s Medications & Mothers’ Milk, Wellbutrin is considered an L3 – Limited Data-Probably Compatible. Hale uses a system from L1 through L5, with L1 being the safest to take when breastfeeding and L5 being the least safe. Since Wellbutrin is considered an L3, one should observe the baby for any signs of sedation, irritability, seizures, not waking up to feed/ poor feeding and weight gain.

What Does Research Say?

Research reveals that an average of 0.2% of the maternal weight-adjusted dosage of bupropion and 2% of the maternal weight-adjusted dosage of bupropion plus metabolites is received by an infant on exclusive breastfeeding (2).

In an uncontrolled online survey conducted on 930 nursing mothers on the antidepressant, nearly 10% infants displayed infant drug discontinuation symptoms such as uncontrollable crying, low body temperature, irritability, eating and sleeping disorders. The discontinuation symptoms were less noticed in babies whose mothers used antidepressants only while nursing, compared to those who had them even during pregnancy (3).

One report showed that a baby exposed to buproprion had seizures (4). As the mother stopped the drug, the seizures too stopped.

While research shows the impact on the baby, the mother too has the risk of facing side effects.

Side Effects Of Taking Wellbutrin While Breastfeeding

According to Dr. Hale, some of the common side effects are headache, restlessness, agitation, sleep disturbances, seizures, blurred vision, dry mouth, tachycardia, nausea, and constipation or diarrhea. Use is contraindicated in patients with seizure disorders. Seek immediate medical advice if you have any side effects after taking medicine.

Is there a way you can reduce the effect of the drug on yourself and your baby?

Care To Be Taken While Taking Bupropion

Follow these simple measures to mitigate side effects for you and your baby.

  1. Inform the doctor about any other health issues such as hypertension, bipolar disorder, heart disease, seizures, spinal cord or brain tumors or liver disease, before starting Wellbutrin. Also, tell him if you have taken a Monoamine oxidase inhibitors  (MAOI) within the last two weeks, as Wellbutrin is not compatible with MAOIs.
  1. A sudden withdrawal of bupropion may lead to symptoms like dizziness, anxiety, nervousness, and stomach upset. Thus, experts suggest gradual withdrawal of the drug after discussing it with the doctor.
  1. The drug can reduce the quantity of milk in some nursing mothers. If you notice such a thing, talk to your doctor immediately. He may recommend alternative drugs such as nortriptyline, paroxetine, sertraline.

Note: Any drug should be continued or discontinued only with the doctor’s approval.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is Wellbutrin pregnancy category B or C medication?

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), Wellbutrin belongs to the B category of medication (5). The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies the safety of the drugs into categories such as A, B, C, D, and X. Category B medicines are those drugs that have shown no risk to the fetus in animal studies and have no well-controlled studies in pregnant women (6).

2. Is Wellbutrin a stimulant?

Wellbutrin is an antidepressant that increases a certain type of brain activity, treats conditions such as adult depression and seasonal affective disorder, and helps in cessation of smoking (7). It is also prescribed “off-label” for conditions such as ADHD and bipolar disorder (8).

3. How long does it take for Wellbutrin to get out of my system?

The half-life of a drug is the time a drug stays in the system after reaching its half effectiveness (9). Wellburtin has a half-life of three to four hours. However, when used regularly, its half-life increases to 21 hours (10). Therefore, depending on how many doses of Wellbutrin you consume, it will take a few days to weeks to completely get out of your system.

Wellbutrin is an antidepressant used to treat depressive disorders. Consuming Wellbutrin while breastfeeding under medical guidance is safe in most cases. However, some studies indicate that the drug may cause side effects, such as uncontrolled crying and irritability in babies. These studies also highlight that Wellbutrin use may increase the risk of seizures in nursing babies. Hence, breastfeeding mothers should only take the drug after consulting their healthcare provider. The doctor will evaluate the mother and baby’s health and prescribe an appropriate drug dose.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Bupropion (Wellbutrin®).
    https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/bupropion-wellbutrin-pregnancy/
  2. J S Haas et al. (2004); Bupropion in breast milk: an exposure assessment for potential treatment to prevent post-partum tobacco use.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14985597/
  3. Thomas W Hale et al. (2010); Discontinuation syndrome in newborns whose mothers took antidepressants while pregnant or breastfeeding.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20807106/
  4. Gal Neuman et al. (2014); Bupropion and Escitalopram During Lactation.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24732787/
  5. ACOG Guidelines on Psychiatric Medication Use During Pregnancy and Lactation.
    https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2008/0915/p772.html
  6. FDA Pregnancy Categories.
    https://chemm.hhs.gov/pregnancycategories.htm
  7. Bupropion: Important Patient Information.
    https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/medialibraries/urmcmedia/medicine/general-medicine/patientcare/documents/Buproprion_Brochure_Depression.pdf
  8. Bupropion (Wellbutrin).
    https://www.nami.org/About-Mental-Illness/Treatments/Mental-Health-Medications/Types-of-Medication/Bupropion-(Wellbutrin)
  9. Jericho Hallare and Valerie Gerriets; (2022); Half Life.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554498/
  10. Martin R. Huecker et al.; (2022); Bupropion.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470212/
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shreeja pillai

Shreeja holds a postgraduate degree in Chemistry and diploma in Drug Regulatory Affairs from the University of Mumbai. Before joining MomJunction, she worked as a research analyst with a leading multinational pharmaceutical company. Her interest in the field of medical research has developed her passion for writing research-based articles. As a writer, she aims at providing informative articles on health... more

Briana Violand

(IBCLC, CSC)
Briana Violand, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and Certified Child Sleep Consultant (CSC), graduated from Tiffin University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and is a Certified Child Sleep Consultant (CSC) through the Family Sleep Institute. She has 8 years of breastfeeding, and countless hours of education and training. She enjoys helping people. Her goals are to educate,... more

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