Child development

September 2011



Evidence based guidelines for the use of medicines

Volume 40, No.9, September 2011 Pages 684-690

Lisa H Amir

Marie Pirotta

Manjri Raval


General practitioners may consider prescribing medicines for breastfeeding women during the postpartum period. Most medicines can be used safely during breastfeeding at the recommended dose, however there are exceptions that necessitate caution.


This article provides an evidence based review of medicines used for common situations and their compatibility with breastfeeding.


Breastfeeding women typically use relatively few medicines, and generally these are compatible with breastfeeding. If other medicines are required, information on their safety during breastfeeding can be accessed from pharmacy departments at maternity hospitals or from online resources.

In Australia, 50% of women breastfeed their babies for at least 6 months.1 It is not uncommon for these women to seek medical care during the postpartum period for various common health problems. Women may encounter problems in the 3 months following birth (such as perineal pain, caesarean wound pain, urinary incontinence, constipation, haemorrhoids, exhaustion, coughs/colds/ minor illnesses, backache and mastitis) or at a later stage while they continue to breastfeed (eg. nipple pain, perceived low milk supply, depression and contraception).2,3 General practitioners are often called on to consider prescribing medicines for this group of women, with BEACH data showing that between April 1998 and March 2005, GPs prescribed/advised/supplied medicines at 57% of postnatal depression visits.4

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