Kava: Safe while nursing

I have had some mild bouts of depression and a friend recommended Kava Kava, which she said has helped her tremendously. Is this safe while nursing?

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Kathy Kuhn

Kathy Kuhn is a registered nurse who has been working with breastfeeding families since 1981. She has been an International Board Certified... Read more

Kava kava is considered to be a sedative and sleep enhancer. It can produce mild euphoria in adults, an anesthetic affect, deep muscle relaxation and a reduction of anxiety. The American Academy of Pediatrics has not reviewed Kava Kava for use in breastfeeding mothers. There are no studies on the use of Kava Kava during breastfeeding. Because of the strong and potentially dangerous central nervous system affects it produces and lack of studies in breastfeeding mothers and infants, Kava Kava is considered contraindicated while breastfeeding. (Hale 2000)

This does not mean you need to suffer with depression while you are breastfeeding. There are treatment options that can be used during breastfeeding, such as psychotherapy, support groups and even some medications. Breastfeeding mothers without apparent adverse affects to the infants are using some of the medications in a group of antidepressants known as serotonin-selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). (Hale 2000) (Riordan & Auerbach 1999) Contact your doctor to discuss the best treatment options for you and your baby.

Thank you for asking this important question, you are not alone. It is estimated that as many as 20% of new mothers experience bouts of mild to moderate depression. (Riordan & Auerbach 1999) You may also want to check with your obstetrician or local hospital to see if your community has a support group for postpartum depression or try the postpartum depression message board here at ParentsPlace.com. Many women find this type of mother-to-mother help invaluable.

References:

  • Medications and Mother’s Milk 2000, Hale, T., Pharmasoft Publishers, Amarillo TX, (2000) 372-73.
  • Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, Riordan, J. & Auerbach K., Jones and Bartlett, Boston,(1999) 564-68.
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