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Can You Take Migraine Medication while Breastfeeding?

Posted by Migraine Relief Center on May 16, 2014 7:00:00 AM

Breastfeeding, one of the most intrinsic biological processes that underscores our place in Nature's class Mammalia, is a topic of intense debate and social discourse. Researchers from Ohio State University conducting a longitudinal study on the positive outcomes of breastfeeding recently found that bottle-fed children show little variance in terms of general health, behavior and cognitive performance when compared to their breastfed peers.


Too much discussion on the topic of breastfeeding may seem exasperating to new mothers. In the United States, theCenter for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is committed to encouraging nursing mothers to enjoy one of the most intimate and loving moments they can spend with their babies. To this effect, the CDC frequently publishes information that promotes healthy practices during breastfeeding, including the medications that can be safely taken by nursing mothers.

Facts about Medications and Breastfeeding

The main concern mothers have about taking medications while lactating is whether the medicinal ingredients will pass into their maternal milk. Researchers have found that just about all medicines taken by nursing mothers can be detected in their milk: however, the amounts passed are largely negligible.

Nursing mothers who take prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs will pass less than one percent of what they consume on to their babies. This is the case for most medicines; however, mothers should always check with their physicians with regard to any substances they plan to take.

There are only a handful of medications that physicians will not recommend during breastfeeding. What is important for mothers to remember is that they should not stop their medication regimes while lactating unless ordered by their doctors to do so.

OTC Migraine Medications

Motrin, Tylenol and other OTC medication staples commonly recommended for the treatment of migraine episodes are generally safe for mothers to take while they are feeding their babies. Many doctors ask their patients to try their best to reduce their medication intake during breastfeeding, which means taking the lowest dosage possible.

Extra-strength versions of OTC medications should be avoided by nursing mothers. Other OTC medicines that lactating mothers should try to stay away from include those that indicate sustained release of active ingredients and long-lasting effects.

Even though non-prescription drugs for migraines can be safely taken during breastfeeding, mothers should try to take the least amount of medicines while they are lactating. Babies who suffer an allergic reaction to migraine OTC medicines will quickly show signs such as rashes and sleepiness. When this happens, mothers should discontinue taking all medications until their doctors allows them to resume.

Lactation Risk Category

OTC migraine medications are classified into four categories of lactation risk: L1 is safest, L2 is safer, L3 is moderately safe, and L4 is possibly hazardous. Tylenol, for example, is a category L1 medication; aspirin, on the other hand, presents an L3 risk category. Most ergot alkaloids are category L4.

The lactation risk category of OTC medications can be found on the informational brochure and labels included with the packaging.

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