Drug Levels and Effects:

Summary of Use during Lactation:

Milk levels of imipramine 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. Imipramine 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. Some experts consider imipramine one of the antidepressants of choice for nursing mothers.[1][2] Other agents with may be preferred when large doses are required or while nursing a newborn or preterm infant.

Drug Levels:

Imipramine is metabolized to desipramine which has antidepressant activity equal to that of imipramine. Desipramine is metabolized to 2-hydroxydesipramine which has antidepressant activity equal to that of desipramine.[3]

Maternal Levels

Two women who were taking imipramine 50 mg daily for panic disorder had imipramine and desipramine breastmilk levels measured 1 month postpartum (time after dose not stated). In one, levels of impiramine and desipramine were 91 and 185 mcg/L, respectively. In the other only trace quantities were detected.[4]

A mother who was 1 month postpartum began taking imipramine for depression. Sixteen days after initiation, milk imipramine plus desipramine levels ranged from 21 to 59 mcg/L at various times while taking a dose of 200 mg daily. There was no clear-cut relationship of milk levels to the time since the dose.[5]

Four mothers who were taking imipramine in doses of 75 to 150 mg daily had milk samples taken 12 to 15 hours after their daily dose. Milk imipramine plus desipramine levels ranged from 48 to 622 mcg/L, with little correlation to dosage. Foremilk levels were lower than hindmilk levels.[6] Using the hindmilk data from this study, an exclusively breastfed infant would receive an estimated maximum of 2.9% of the maternal weight-adjusted dosage.

Infant Levels

Two infants had serum level measurements of imipramine plus desipramine while breastfeeding. One infant whose mother began imipramine 75 mg daily 2 weeks postpartum and was breastfed for 7 weeks had a serum level of 0.6 mcg/L. Another infant was breastfed for 17 weeks after his mother began imipramine 100 mg daily 8 weeks postpartum and later decreased to 75 mg daily. His average of 3 serum levels was 5.5 mcg/L (range 3.3 to 7.4 mcg/L). Time after the dose was not stated.[6]

One 5.9-week-old infant who was breastfed 10 to 12 times daily had no detectable serum imipramine or desipramine (both <25 mcg/l)="" during="" maternal="" use="" of="" imipramine="" 75="" mg="" daily.="" another="" 17-week-old="" infant="" who="" was="" breastfed="" 10="" to="" 12="" times="" daily="" had="" no="" detectable="" serum="" imipramine="" (<20="" mcg/l)="" or="" desipramine="" (<35="" mcg/l)="" during="" maternal="" use="" of="" imipramine="" 150="" mg="">

Effects in Breastfed Infants:

No behavioral or physical changes were noted in a 6-week-old breastfed infant whose mother had been taking imipramine 200 mg/day at bedtime for 15 days.[5]

Follow-up for 1 to 3 years in 14 breastfed infants whose mothers were taking imipramine in an average dosage of 161 mg daily (range 125 to 225 mg daily) found no adverse effects on growth and development.. [8]

Four infants were breastfed for 7 to 18 weeks during maternal use of imipramine 75 to 150 mg daily starting at 2 weeks (3 infants) and 8 weeks (1 infant) postpartum. Formal testing indicated no adverse effects on infant development up to 30 months of age. The mother of 1 infant was takinghaloperidolalong with imipramine 150 mg daily.[6]

In another study, 25 infants whose mothers took a tricyclic antidepressant during pregnancy and lactation were tested formally between 15 to 71 months and found to have normal growth and development. Some of the mothers were taking imipramine.[9]

Possible Effects on Lactation:

Imipramine has caused increased prolactin levels and gynecomastia in nonpregnant, nonnursing patients.[10][11] Galactorrhea has been reported rarely.[12][13] 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. di Scalea TL, Wisner KL. Pharmacotherapy of postpartum depression. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2009;10:2593-607. PMID:19874247
2. National Health Service (England). National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. Antenatal and postnatal mental health: clinical management and service guidance, clinical guideline no. 45. 2007.
3. 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
4. Ware MR, DeVane CL. Imipramine treatment of panic disorder during pregnancy. J Clin Psychiatry. 1990;51:482-4. PMID:2228984
5. Sovner R, Orsulak PJ. Excretion of imipramine and desipramine in human breast milk. Am J Psychiatry. 1979;136:451-2. PMID:426114
6. Yoshida K, Smith B, Craggs M et al. Investigation of pharmacokinetics and possible adverse effects in infants exposed to tricyclic antidepressants in breast-milk. J Affective Disord. 1997;43:225-37. PMID:9186793
7. 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
8. Misri S, Sivertz K. Tricyclic drugs in pregnancy and lactation: a preliminary report. Int J Psychiatry Med. 1991;21:157-71. PMID:1894455
9. Nulman I, Rovet J, Stewart DE et al. Child development following exposure to tricyclic antidepressants or fluoxetine throughout fetal life: a prospective, controlled study. Am J Psychiatry. 2002;159:1889-95. PMID:12411224
10. Turkington RW. Prolactin secretion in patients treated with various drugs: phenothiazines, tricyclic antidepressants, reserpine, and methyldopa. Arch Intern Med. 1972;130:349-54. PMID:4560178
11. Turkington RW. Serum prolactin levels in patients with gynecomastia. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1972;34:62-6. PMID:5061776
12. Klein JJ SRWR. Galactorrhea due to imipramine. Report of a case. N Engl J Med. 1964;271:510-2. PMID:14172465
13. Mahasuar R, Majhi P, Ravan JR. Euprolactinemic galactorrhea associated with use of imipramine and escitalopram in a postmenopausal woman. Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2010;32:341.e11-3. PMID:20430243

Substance Identification:

Substance Name:


CAS Registry Number:


Drug Class:

  • Antidepressants

  • Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic

  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors

  • Administrative Information:

    LactMed Record Number:


    Last Revision Date:

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