Skip to Content

Tenofovir use while Breastfeeding

Drugs containing Tenofovir: Truvada, Atripla, Viread, Stribild, Complera, Cimduo, AccessPak for HIV PEP Basic, AccessPak for HIV PEP Expanded with Kaletra, Symfi Lo, Symfi, Show all 11 »AccessPak for HIV PEP Expanded with Viracept

Tenofovir Levels and Effects while Breastfeeding

Summary of Use during Lactation

Published experience with tenofovir during breastfeeding in HIV-positive mothers and HIV-negative mothers treated for HIV prophylaxis or hepatitis B infection indicates that the exposure of the infant to the drug is trivial. A few infants have been breastfed during maternal tenofovir therapy and no adverse effects have been seen up to 2 years of age. Expert reviews of available data concluded that there is currently no justification for contraindicating the use of tenofovir for hepatitis B during breastfeeding.[1][2] Professional organization guidelines generally allow breastfeeding during tenofovir therapy, although one guideline cautions against it because of a lack of long-term safety data.[3][4][5] The lack of long-term safety data with long-term, low-level infant exposure should be discussed with the mother.[3] No differences exist in infection rates between breastfed and formula-fed infants born to hepatitis B-infected women, as long as the infant receives hepatitis B immune globulin and hepatitis B vaccine at birth. Mothers with hepatitis B are encouraged to breastfeed their infants after their infants receive these preventative measures.[6][7] Maternal use of prophylactic vaginal tenofovir (investigational in the U.S.) does not appear to present a great risk to the breastfed infant.[8]

In the United States and other developed countries, HIV-infected mothers should generally not breastfeed their infants. In countries in which no acceptable, feasible, sustainable and safe replacement feeding is available, World Health Organization guidelines recommend that all women with an HIV infection who are pregnant or breastfeeding should be maintained on antiretroviral therapy for at least the duration of risk for mother-to-child transmission. Mothers should exclusively breastfeed their infants for the first 6 months of life; breastfeeding with complementary feeding should continue through at least 12 months of life up to 24 months of life.[9] The first choice regimen for nursing mothers is tenofovir, efavirenz and either lamivudine or emtricitabine. If these drugs are unavailable, alternative regimens include: 1) zidovudine, lamivudine and efavirenz; 2) zidovudine, lamivudine and nevirapine; or 3) tenofovir, nevirapine and either lamivudine or emtricitabine. Exclusively breastfed infants should also receive 6 weeks of prophylaxis with nevirapine.[10][11] Use of tenofovir as an agent for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in HIV-uninfected nursing mothers appears to pose little risk to their breastfed infants and might prevent vertical HIV transmission by preventing maternal infection.[12] Treatment of mothers of HIV+ mothers with efavirenz as part of Option B+ therapy does not appear to affect growth of their HIV-negative breastfed infants.

Drug Levels

Tenofovir has very poor bioavailability and is available commercially as the more bioavailable tenofovir disoproxil fumarate which is metabolized intracellularly to the active metabolite tenofovir diphosphate. The bioavailabilities of tenofovir and tenofovir diphosphate from breastmilk are not known, but presumed to be very low. Maternal Levels. Five exclusively breastfeeding mothers received oral tenofovir 300 mg plus emtricitabine 200 mg and nevirapine 200 mg at the start of labor, then oral tenofovir 300 mg daily and emtricitabine 200 mg for 7 days postpartum. A total of 16 concurrent maternal blood and milk samples were collected on days 1, 2, 3, and 7 postpartum between 10 minutes and 21 hours after the mothers' doses. Median peak and trough tenofovir concentrations in breastmilk were 14.1 mcg/L and 6.8 mcg/L, respectively. The authors estimated that an exclusively breastfed infant would receive about 0.03% of the proposed infant dose for tenofovir and achieve trivial infant serum concentrations that would likely have no adverse consequences.[13]

In a multicenter study in Malawi and Brazil, mothers were given a single dose of either 600 mg or 900 mg of tenofovir during labor. Breastmilk samples were collected from mothers at various times postpartum. Tenofovir was detected (>2.5 mcg/L) in three-fourths of samples collected from 25 mothers during the first 2 days postpartum. Levels ranged from 6.3 to 17.8 mcg/L. At 4 to 6 days postpartum, only one milk sample of 21 had a detectable tenofovir level of 15.7 mcg/L.[14]

Women in Malawi received the option B+ regimen for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV consisting of tenofovir, lamivudine and efavirenz between 6 and 8 pm daily. The tenofovir dose was not stated, but was presumably 300 mg daily. Milk samples collected in the morning from 33 women at month 1 postpartum had a median tenofovir concentration of 5 mcg/L (IQR 0 to 6.1 mcg/L). Milk samples collected in the morning from 47 women at month 12 postpartum had a median tenofovir concentration of 2.5 mcg/L (IQR 0 to 5.5 mcg/L).[15]

Seventeen women received 40 mg vaginal doses of 1% tenofovir gel daily for 6 days, with the first and last doses applied in clinic under observation. Two women reported using four doses at home, eleven women reported five doses, and two reported six doses. Breastmilk samples were collected before and 2, 4, and 6 hours after the first and last doses. Only 25% of milk samples contained detectable (>1 mcg/L) tenofovir post-dose on day 0, 12.5% at pre-dose on day 6, and 37.5% post-dose on day 6. Breastmilk tenofovir concentrations ranged from 0 to 0.75 mcg/L on day 0 and from 0 to 1.6 mcg/L on day 6.[8]

Fifty HIV-negative women who were nursing their infants were given pre-exposure prophylaxis daily with the combination of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate 300 mg and emtricitabine 200 mg by directly observed therapy for 10 days. On days 7 and 10 of therapy, peak milk samples were obtained 1 to 2 hours after a dose and trough samples were obtained 23 to 24 hours after the previous dose. The median peak milk tenofovir concentration was 3.2 mcg/L and the trough concentration was 3.3 mcg/L. These values represent an estimated daily dosage of 0.47 to 0.49 mcg/kg, which is less than 0.01% of the proposed infant therapeutic dosage.[16]

Tenofovir was measured in 6 HIV-positive nursing mothers after a 300 mg dose during ongoing therapy. Tenofovir reached a peak breastmilk concentration of 5.9 mcg/L (range 5.5 to 8.0 mcg/L) at an average of 3 hours (range 1 to 7) hours after the dose.[17]

Forty-eight Nigerian and Ugandan women took 300 mg of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate once daily as part of a combination therapy for HIV. Expressed milk samples were taken before the dose and at several times in the 12 hours after the morning dose (n = 30) or at 12, 16 and 20 hours after a dose given the previous evening (n = 18). The median peak breastmilk concentration from dried breastmilk spots was 5.98 mcg/L (IQR 0 to 8.05 mcg/L) at a median of 4 hours after the dose (IQR 1 to 6 hours).[18]

Infant Levels. Five infants were exclusively breastfed by 4 mothers who took tenofovir 245 mg (presumably 300 mg of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) daily. At an average of 1.8 months of age, infant serum tenofovir concentrations were measured. Tenofovir was undetectable (<0.005 mg/L) in the serum of 4 of the infants, and 0.0055 mg/L in the serum of one infant.[19]

In a study of women and their infants receiving antiretroviral therapy for HIV infection, mothers who received a tenofovir-containing regimen were compared to those who did not. The risk of infant death was reduced by 57% among infants who were breastfed and exposed to tenofovir compared to those who were not breasted. No alterations in growth and development were seen among breastfed infants in 2 years of follow-up.[20] Blood samples were taken from 25 breastfed infants of mothers who were receiving option B+ regimen for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV consisting of tenofovir, lamivudine and efavirenz between 6 and 8 pm daily. The tenofovir dose was not stated, but was presumably 300 mg daily. The median morning infant plasma concentration of tenofovir at 6 months of age was 24 mcg/L (IQR 0 to 51.6 mcg/L). The median morning infant plasma concentration of tenofovir at 12 months of age was 0 mcg/L.[15]

Seventeen women received 40 mg vaginal doses of 1% tenofovir gel daily for 6 days, with the first and last doses applied in clinic under observation. Two women reported four doses at home, eleven women reported inserting five doses, and two reported six doses. Infant blood was collected 6 hours after the maternal dose, which ranged from 1 to 4 hours after breastfeeding. Six infants (37.5%) had detectable tenofovir levels after the maternal dose on day 0, and 12 (75%) of infants post-dose on day 6. In infants with detectable tenofovir serum concentrations, day 6 levels were higher (median 2.4 mcg/L) than on day 0 concentrations (median 0). No difference was seen in the anti-HIV activity of breastmilk between day 0 and day 6.[8]

Fifty HIV-negative women who were nursing their infants were given pre-exposure prophylaxis daily with the combination of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate 300 mg and emtricitabine 200 mg by directly observed therapy for 10 days. A single infant blood sample was obtained after the mother's 7th dose. Of 49 infant blood samples collected, 46 had an undetectable (<0.31 mcg/L) concentration of tenofovir. The 3 with detectable levels contained 0.9, 0.9 and 17.4 mcg/L of tenofovir.[16]

Tenofovir 300 mg daily was given to 6 HIV-positive nursing mothers. None of the breastfed infants had detectable tenofovir serum levels.[17]

Forty-eight Nigerian and Ugandan women took 300 mg of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate once daily either in the morning or evening as part of a combination therapy for HIV. Their exclusively breastfed infants were fed on demand and had blood samples taken at 2 and 8 hours after the dose. Dried blood spots were analyzed and no infants had a measurable (>4.2 mcg/L) tenofovir blood concentration.[18]

Effects in Breastfed Infants

Two newborn infants whose mothers were treated with tenofovir 245 mg (presumably 300 mg of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) daily were exclusively breastfed for 3 months. At 4 months of age, neither showed any adverse outcomes on standard developmental parameters.[19]

Five women with hepatitis B infection were treated with tenofovir disoproxil fumarate 300 mg daily beginning in the third trimester of pregnancy and continuing postpartum. Although instructed not to breastfeed, 5 mothers breastfed (extent not stated) their newborn infants. No short-term adverse reactions were seen and the infants' HBsAg was negative between 28 and 36 weeks of age.[21]

Fourteen mothers were treated with tenofovir (dosage unspecified) during pregnancy (12 beginning in the first trimester) for hepatitis B. Three of the mothers breastfed while taking tenofovir. No adverse outcomes were noted in their breastfed infants up to 1 year of age.[22]

In a study of 17 nursing mothers who receive 40 mg of 1% vaginal tenofovir daily for 6 days, 4 of 17 infants had one or more adverse effects. There were a total of 8 adverse reactions. Seven were mild, and one had diarrhea that was thought to be related to tenofovir exposure.[8]

In a study of 50 infants breastfed by HIV-negative women who were given pre-exposure prophylaxis daily with the combination of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate 300 mg and emtricitabine 200 mg by directly observed therapy for 10 days, 2 infants reportedly had diarrhea lasting 2 to 3 days. No other side effects were reported.[16]

A study of 136 breastfed infants of mothers who took tenofovir, efavirenz and lamivudine during pregnancy and postpartum (Option B+) in Malawi measured bone markers at 1, 6 and 12 months of age. Markers included bone-specific alkaline phosphatase and C-terminal telopeptide of type I collagen. Although tenofovir is known to affect bone density and bone mineral density in adults, no effects were seen on infants' bone markers in the study.[23]

In a long-term study of tenofovir for chronic hepatitis B, 3 women reportedly breastfed their infants (extent not stated). None of the infants had any adverse effects up to 1 year of age.[24]

A prospective cohort study compared the growth and development of infants of HIV-negative mothers and infants of HIV-positive mothers taking tenofovir and efavirenz as part of Option B+ HIV treatment. Infants were followed up to 12 months of age. No differences in the groups was found in any growth parameters.[25]

Effects on Lactation and Breastmilk

Relevant published information was not found as of the revision date.

Alternate Drugs to Consider

(Hepatitis B) Interferon Alfa, Lamivudine


1. Ehrhardt S, Xie C, Guo N, Nelson K, Thio CL. Breastfeeding while taking lamivudine or tenofovir disoproxil fumarate: a review of the evidence. Clin Infect Dis. 2015;60:275-8. PMID: 25313254

2. Mofenson LM , Baggaley RC, Mameletzis I. Tenofovir disoproxil fumarate safety for women and their infants during pregnancy and breastfeeding: Systematic review. AIDS. 2017;31:213-23. PMID: 27831952

3. Terrault NA, Bzowej NH, Chang KM, Hwang JP, Jonas MM, Murad MH. AASLD guidelines for treatment of chronic hepatitis B. Hepatology. 2016;63:261-83. PMID: 26566064

4. EASL 2017 Clinical Practice Guidelines on the management of hepatitis B virus infection. J Hepatol. 2017;67:370-98. PMID: 28427875

5. Sarin SK, Kumar M, Lau GK et al. Asian-Pacific clinical practice guidelines on the management of hepatitis B: A 2015 update. Hepatol Int. 2016;10:1-98. PMID: 26563120

6. Visvanathan K, Dusheiko G, Giles M et al. Managing HBV in pregnancy. Prevention, prophylaxis, treatment and follow-up: Position paper produced by Australian, UK and New Zealand key opinion leaders. Gut. 2016;65:340-50. PMID: 26475631

7. Dionne-Odom J, Tita AT, Silverman NS. #38: Hepatitis B in pregnancy screening, treatment, and prevention of vertical transmission. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2016;214:6-14. PMID: 26454123

8. Noguchi LM, Montgomery ET, Biggio JR et al. Detectable tenofovir levels in breastfeeding infants of mothers exposed to topical tenofovir. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2016;60:5616-9. PMID: 27401570

9. Anon. Guideline: Updates on HIV and infant feeding: The duration of breastfeeding, and support from health services to improve feeding practices among mothers living with HIV. Geneva: World Health Organization. 2016. PMID: 27583316

10. World Health Organization. HIV and infant feeding: update. 2007.

11. World Health Organization. Consolidated guidelines on the use of antiretroviral drugs for treating and preventing HIV infection. Geneva: World Health Organization. 2013.

12. Mugwanya KK , John-Stewart G, Baeten J. Safety of oral tenofovir disoproxil fumarate-based HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis use in lactating HIV-uninfected women. Expert Opin Drug Saf. 2017;1-5. PMID: 28571500

13. Benaboud S, Pruvost A, Coffie PA et al. Concentrations of tenofovir and emtricitabine in breast milk of HIV-1-infected women in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, in the ANRS 12109 TEMAA Study, step 2. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2011;55:1315-7. PMID: 21173182

14. Mirochnick M, Taha T, Kreitchmann R et al. Pharmacokinetics and safety of tenofovir in HIV-infected women during labor and their Infants during the first week of life. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2014;65:33-4. PMID: 23979002

15. Palombi L, Pirillo MF, Marchei E et al. Concentrations of tenofovir, lamivudine and efavirenz in mothers and children enrolled under the Option B-Plus approach in Malawi. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2016;71:1027-30. PMID: 26679247

16. Mugwanya KK, Hendrix CW, Mugo NR et al. Pre-exposure prophylaxis use by breastfeeding HIV-uninfected women: A prospective short-term study of antiretroviral excretion in breast milk and infant absorption. PLoS Med. 2016;13:e1002132. PMID: 27676257

17. Waitt C, Diliiy Penchala S, Olagunju A et al. Development, validation and clinical application of a method for the simultaneous quantification of lamivudine, emtricitabine and tenofovir in dried blood and dried breast milk spots using LC-MS/MS. J Chromatogr B Anal Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2017;1060:300-37. PMID: 28651173

18. Waitt C, Olagunju A, Nakalema S et al. Plasma and breast milk pharmacokinetics of emtricitabine, tenofovir and lamivudine using dried blood and breast milk spots in nursing African mother-infant pairs. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2018;73:1013-9. PMID: 29309634

19. Gouraud A, Millaret A, Bernard N, Bruel M, Paret N, Descotes J et al. Tenofovir exposure through breast feeding: Serum concentrations in neonates and clinical follow-up. Fundam Clin Pharmacol. 2012;26 (Suppl 1):9. Abstract. DOI: doi:10.1111/j.1472-8206.2012.01032.x

20. Gibb DM, Kizito H, Russell EC et al. Pregnancy and infant outcomes among HIV-infected women taking long-term ART with and without tenofovir in the DART trial. PLoS Med. 2012;9:e1001217. PMID: 22615543

21. Pan CQ, Mi LJ, Bunchorntavakul C et al. Tenofovir disoproxil fumarate for prevention of vertical transmission of hepatitis B virus infection by highly viremic pregnant women: A case series. Dig Dis Sci. 57:2423-9. PMID: 22543886

22. Ganne-Carrie N, Causse X, Zarski JP et al. Efficacy and safety results of tenofovir DF (TDF) treatment from the first trimester in HBV pregnant women in real-life clinical practice. Hepatology. 2013;58 (Suppl 1):664A-5A. Abstract. DOI: doi:10.1002/hep.26855

23. Floridia M, Liotta G, Andreotti M et al. Levels of bone markers in a population of infants exposed in utero and during breastfeeding to tenofovir within an Option B+ programme in Malawi. J Antimicrob Chemother. 2016;71:3206-11. PMID: 27494909

24. Marcellin P, Zoulim F, Hezode C et al. Effectiveness and safety of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate in chronic hepatitis B: A 3-year, prospective, real-world study in France. Dig Dis Sci. 2016;61:3072-83. PMID: 26821154

25. Kapito-Tembo AP, Wesevich A, Bauleni A et al. Growth in infants exposed to EFV and TDF through breastmilk: Malawi PMTCT option B+. Top Antiviral Med. 2017;25:333s-4s. Abstract.

Tenofovir Identification

Substance Name


CAS Registry Number


Drug Class

Antiinfective Agents

Anti-HIV Agents

Antiviral Agents

Anti-Retroviral Agents

Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors

Administrative Information

LactMed Record Number


Last Revision Date



Information presented in this database is not meant as a substitute for professional judgment. You should consult your healthcare provider for breastfeeding advice related to your particular situation. The U.S. government does not warrant or assume any liability or responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of the information on this Site.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.