Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Feb 23, 2021.
Prednisone Levels and Effects while Breastfeeding
Summary of Use during Lactation
Amounts of prednisone in breastmilk are very low. No adverse effect have been reported in breastfed infants with maternal use of any corticosteroid during breastfeeding. With high maternal doses, the use of prednisolone instead of prednisone and avoiding breastfeeding for 4 hours after a dose theoretically should decrease the dose received by the infant. However, these maneuvers are not necessary with short-term use. High doses might occasionally cause temporary loss of milk supply.
Maternal Levels. After oral prednisone, peak milk levels of total prednisone plus prednisolone were 28.3 mcg/L after a 10 mg oral dose in one woman; 102 mcg/L after a 20 mg dose in a second; and 627 mcg/L after a 120 mg dose in another. Peak milk steroid levels occur about 2 hours after a dose of prednisone.
Two women taking oral prednisone provided milk by complete breast emptying using a breast pump every 2 to 3 hours over one dosage interval. One subject was taking a dose of 2 mg every 12 hours and the other was taking 15 mg every 24 hours. The respective infant weight-adjusted dosages were 0.58% and 0.35% of the maternal dose for prednisone and 0.18% and 0.09% for prednisolone. Drug concentrations in milk were undetectable (<4 mcg/L) after 12 hours for prednisone and 6 hours for prednisolone.
Infant Levels. Relevant published information was not found as of the revision date.
Effects in Breastfed Infants
None reported with prednisone or any other corticosteroid. In a prospective follow-up study, six nursing mothers reported taking prednisone (dosage unspecified) with no adverse infant effects. There are several reports of mothers breastfeeding during long-term use of corticosteroids with no adverse infant effects: prednisone 10 mg daily (2 infants) and prednisolone 5 to 7.5 mg daily (14 infants).[6-8]
A woman with Crohn's disease used prednisone 60 mg/day in a tapering schedule immediately postpartum during breastfeeding (extent not stated). She also received sulfasalazine 4 g/day and infliximab 5 mg/kg every 8 weeks during pregnancy and postpartum. At 6 months of age, the infant was asymptomatic with regular weight gain.
The National Transplantation Pregnancy Registry reports that as of December 2013, 124 women with transplants have taken prednisone while breastfeeding 169 infants for periods as long as 48 months, with no apparent infant harm.
Effects on Lactation and Breastmilk
Published information on the effects of prednisone on serum prolactin or on lactation in nursing mothers was not found as of the revision date. However, medium to large doses of depot corticosteroids injected into joints have been reported to cause temporary reduction of lactation.[11,12]
A study of 46 women who delivered an infant before 34 weeks of gestation found that a course of another corticosteroid (betamethasone, 2 intramuscular injections of 11.4 mg of betamethasone 24 hours apart) given between 3 and 9 days before delivery resulted in delayed lactogenesis II and lower average milk volumes during the 10 days after delivery. Milk volume was not affected if the infant was delivered less than 3 days or more than 10 days after the mother received the corticosteroid. An equivalent dosage regimen of prednisone might have the same effect.
A study of 87 pregnant women found that betamethasone given as above during pregnancy caused a premature stimulation of lactose secretion during pregnancy. Although the increase was statistically significant, the clinical importance appears to be minimal. An equivalent dosage regimen of prednisone might have the same effect.
Katz FH, Duncan BR. Entry of prednisone into human milk. N Engl J Med 1975;293:1154. Letter. PMID: 1186783. [PubMed: 1186783]
Sagraves R, Kaiser D, Sharpe GL. Prednisone and prednisolone concentrations in the milk of a lactating mother. Drug Intell Clin Pharm. 1981;15:484. Abstract.
Berlin CM Jr, Kaiser DG, Demers L. Excretion of prednisone and prednisolone in human milk. Pharmacologist. 1979;21:264. Abstract.
Ryu RJ, Easterling TR, Caritis SN, et al. Prednisone pharmacokinetics during pregnancy and lactation. J Clin Pharmacol. 2018;58:1223–32. [PMC free article: PMC6310475] [PubMed: 29733485]
Ito S, Blajchman A, Stephenson M, et al. Prospective follow-up of adverse reactions in breast-fed infants exposed to maternal medication. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1993;168:1393–9. [PubMed: 8498418]
Moretti ME, Sgro M, Johnson DW, et al. Cyclosporine excretion into breast milk. Transplantation. 2003;75:2144–6. [PubMed: 12829927]
Muñoz-Flores-Thiagarajan KD, Easterling T, Davis C, et al. Breast-feeding by a cyclosporine-treated mother. Obstet Gynecol. 2001;97:816–8. [PubMed: 11336764]
Nyberg G, Haljamae U, Frisenette-Fich C, et al. Breast-feeding during treatment with cyclosporine. Transplantation. 1998;65:253–5. [PubMed: 9458024]
Correia LM, Bonilha DQ, Ramos JD, et al. Inflammatory bowel disease and pregnancy: Report of two cases treated with infliximab and a review of the literature. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2010;22:1260–4. [PubMed: 20671559]
Constantinescu S, Pai A, Coscia LA, et al. Breast-feeding after transplantation. Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2014;28:1163–73. [PubMed: 25271063]
McGuire E. Sudden loss of milk supply following high-dose triamcinolone (Kenacort) injection. Breastfeed Rev. 2012;20:32–4. [PubMed: 22724311]
Babwah TJ, Nunes P, Maharaj RG. An unexpected temporary suppression of lactation after a local corticosteroid injection for tenosynovitis. Eur J Gen Pract. 2013;19:248–50. [PubMed: 24261425]
Henderson JJ, Hartmann PE, Newnham JP, et al. Effect of preterm birth and antenatal corticosteroid treatment on lactogenesis II in women. Pediatrics. 2008;121:e92–100. [PubMed: 18166549]
Henderson JJ, Newnham JP, Simmer K, et al. Effects of antenatal corticosteroids on urinary markers of the initiation of lactation in pregnant women. Breastfeed Med. 2009;4:201–6. [PubMed: 19772378]
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