Can I Take Imitrex While Breastfeeding?

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Migraines are tough for anyone to deal with. When you're breastfeeding, they can be especially challenging and stressful, as you're taking care of a baby while dealing with pain and other symptoms. Plus, it's common to worry if treatment will be safe for your baby. However, there are migraine medications that are safe to use during breastfeeding.

While most medications pass into breast milk, that doesn't always mean you can't take them. Imitrex (sumatriptan) is a medication prescribed for migraines that is generally approved for use during lactation. It can safely be taken while breastfeeding as long as you follow a few precautions.

Be sure to talk to a physician about the risks and benefits of taking Imitrex (or any medication) while breastfeeding. Together you can look at all of the factors and make a decision on which medications are the best choice for you and your baby.

What Is Imitrex?

Imitrex is a medication that treats cluster headaches and migraines. It is a type of drug called a serotonin receptor agonist. The medication works by constricting the blood vessels in the head to blunt the pain signals that are experienced as a migraine.

"Sumatriptan is a medication used 'as needed' to avert severe migraine attacks," says Lori Feldman-Winter, MD, MPH, a pediatrician and professor of pediatrics at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in New Jersey. "It is not a medication to use all the time" as a preventative. However, "the medication can be repeated once if not effective within the context of the same attack," says Dr. Feldman-Winter.

It is often prescribed to breastfeeding parents as another option if medications like Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen) do not provide relief.

Imitrex can be administered as an injection or given in pill form. Typically, it is taken at the first indication of headache pain to prevent and/or reduce the severity of symptoms.

Is It Safe to Take Imitrex While Breastfeeding?

Research shows that only a small amount of the drug Imitrex is transferred into breast milk. Also, the medication has low oral bioavailability, which means it is not well-absorbed or very active on the body when taken by mouth.

"The transfer of this drug into milk is relatively low and therefore in a full-term breastfeeding newborn should not be a problem," says Dr. Feldman-Winter.

The Infant Risk Center at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center also states that Imitrex has a good record of safe use during breastfeeding. In addition, a 2021 study found that infant exposure to Imitrex through breast milk was low (0.7% that of the parent's dose) and appeared safe to use while breastfeeding.

Every breastfeeding journey is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about taking Imitrex while breastfeeding.

Safety Precautions

LactMed is a "peer-reviewed and fully referenced database of drugs to which breastfeeding mothers may be exposed." It's a great reference to help decide if a medicine is safe to take while breastfeeding. It includes both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, including Imitrex.

LactMed states that Imitrex "would not be expected to cause any adverse effects in most breastfed infants." However, some experts recommend waiting for 8 to 12 hours after taking Imitrex before breastfeeding to decrease any possible risk of the baby being exposed to the drug.

"Typically, one suffering from a migraine would take the medication and then try to get rest, which would by itself allow the two- to three-hour window for the medication to leave the milk supply," explains Dr. Feldman-Winter. "Therefore, one could recommend feeding or expressing milk first followed by a two- to three-hour waiting period to feed again."

Ask your doctor about any recommended adjustments to your breastfeeding schedule. Typically, if it's advised that you not breastfeed for a number of hours after taking Imitrex, you won't need to pump and dump, unless your breasts become uncomfortably full. The waiting period simply gives the medication time to leave your system (and your breast milk). After that time period, the breast milk will be free of the medication.

Another important precaution is to let your doctor know if Imitrex does not help your migraine symptoms. If that's the case, your doctor may want to prescribe other medications and/or see you to determine what else may be going on that's causing your headache pain.

Breastfeeding Safe Alternatives

If your doctor does not recommend taking Imitrex while breastfeeding, there are numerous possible alternatives, such as over-the-counter painkillers. For instance, Tylenol and Advil are common choices for treating migraines and other headaches in breastfeeding parents.

"The main concern with chronic use of this medication and those related is an associated decrease in milk supply," says Dr. Feldman-Winter. If breast milk supply is an issue, then other medications can be prescribed instead. However, the doctor notes that this concern is theoretical and has not been shown by large studies.

A Word From Verywell

It's understandable to worry about the potential risks of exposing your breastfeeding baby to any medications you are taking. However, breastfeeding parents have many effective options for migraine treatment, including the drug Imitrex.

In most cases, this medication has been deemed safe for use during lactation. Consult your doctor about whether Imitrex is right for you and to find out if you should wait to breastfeed for any length of time after taking the medication.

5 Sources
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  2. Sachs HC, Committee on Drugs, Frattarelli DAC, et al. The transfer of drugs and therapeutics into human breast milk: an update on selected topics. Pediatrics. 2013;132(3):e796-e809. doi:10.1542/peds.2013-1985

  3. Amundsen S, Nordeng H, Fuskevåg OM, Nordmo E, Sager G, Spigset O. Transfer of triptans into human breast milk and estimation of infant drug exposure through breastfeeding. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2021;128(6):795-804. doi:10.1111/bcpt.13579

  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Drugs and lactation database: Sumatriptan.

  5. InfantRisk Center. Migraine headaches.