Drug Levels and Effects:

Summary of Use during Lactation:

Milk levels of desipramine and its metabolite are low and have not been detected in the serum of breastfed infants. Immediate side effects have not been reported and a limited amount of follow-up has found no adverse effects on infant growth and development. Desipramine use during breastfeeding would usually not be expected to cause any adverse effects in breastfed infants, especially if the infant is older than 2 months.

Drug Levels:

Desipramine is metabolized to 2-hydroxydesipramine which has antidepressant activity equal to that of desipramine.[1]

Maternal Levels

A mother who was taking desipramine 300 mg daily had average milk desipramine plus 2-hydroxydesipramine milk levels of 338 mcg/L at 9 hours after the dose 10 to 11 weeks postpartum.[2]

Infant Levels

Two infants whose mothers were taking desipramine during pregnancy and lactation had no detectable serum desipramine (<25 mcg/L) with a maternal dosage of 200 mg daily. One infant was tested at 2.3 and 14.9 weeks of age while breastfeeding 7 to 9 times daily and the other was tested at 5.4 weeks of age while breastfeeding 10 to 12 weeks of age. Two other infants whose mothers began desipramine postpartum had undetectable (<10 mcg/L) serum desipramine levels. One infant whose mother took desipramine 150 mg daily was tested at 12.3 weeks of age while breastfeeding 4 to 6 times daily; the other whose mother took desipramine 37 mg daily was tested at 33 weeks of age while breastfeeding 0 to 3 times daily.[3]

Effects in Breastfed Infants:

One infant whose mother took desipramine 100 mg daily for 8 weeks starting at 16 weeks postpartum was followed up at 36 months of age. No adverse effects on growth and development were found.[4]

Possible Effects on Lactation:

Desipramine has caused increased serum prolactin levels in some patients.[5] The clinical relevance of these findings in nursing mothers is not known. The prolactin level in a mother with established lactation may not affect her ability to breastfeed.

Alternate Drugs to Consider:



1. Weissman AM, Levy BT, Hartz AJ et al. Pooled analysis of antidepressant levels in lactating mothers, breast milk, and nursing infants. Am J Psychiatry. 2004;161:1066-78. PMID:15169695
2. Stancer HC, Reed KL. Desipramine and 2-hydroxydesipramine in human breast milk and the nursing infant's serum. Am J Psychiatry. 1986;143:1597-600. PMID:3789215
3. Birnbaum CS, Cohen LS, Bailey JW et al. Serum concentrations of antidepressants and benzodiazepines in nursing infants: a case series. Pediatrics. 1999;104:e11. PMID:10390297
4. Misri S, Sivertz K. Tricyclic drugs in pregnancy and lactation: a preliminary report. Int J Psychiatry Med. 1991;21:157-71. PMID:1894455
5. Madhusoodanan S, Parida S, Jimenez C. Hyperprolactinemia associated with psychotropics--a review. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2010;25:281-97. PMID:20521318

Substance Identification:

Substance Name:


CAS Registry Number:


Drug Class:

  • Antidepressants

  • Tricyclic Antidepressants

  • Administrative Information:

    LactMed Record Number:


    Last Revision Date:

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