Nausea. Just reading the word can bring up queasy memories from the first months of your pregnancy. Once the first trimester was in your rearview mirror, you may have thought your days of feeling sick were numbered.
But alas, during the birth of your baby and in the subsequent days, you may have found yourself feeling nauseous again.
It’s normal (though perhaps uncommon) to feel this way after giving birth. So you may think to yourself: Trying to take care of a baby when you’re not feeling well is hard enough, but what’s a breastfeeding parent to do? Is it safe to take an anti-nausea medication like Zofran?
Frankly, we don’t know for sure, but some healthcare providers prescribe it. Here’s what we do know.
Several reasons might explain why you’re experiencing nausea after the birth of your baby, including:
- nausea immediately following a C-section as a result of the medications involved
- nausea caused by dehydration and hunger from not eating or drinking enough, especially while breastfeeding
- nausea as a result of exhaustion from not getting sufficient sleep
- nausea that occurs with let-down during breastfeeding (this happens because oxytocin, the hormone that causes your milk ejection reflex, is also associated with digestion and other gut hormones that cause nausea)
Nausea during let-down only occurs in a small percentage of breastfeeding people and usually disappears by 6 to 8 weeks postpartum.
Zofran is sometimes given in the hospital via IV after a cesarean delivery — also known as a C-section — if the birthing person is experiencing nausea from the surgical drugs and procedure.
Although, given the lack of research around Zofran and its effects on breastfeeding infants, some healthcare providers are hesitant to prescribe it for general postpartum nausea issues.
Animal studies suggest that Zofran passes through breast milk, but there’s not enough research to fully understand its effects on a human breastfeeding infant.
Zofran administered during a C-section doesn’t appear to affect the start of breastfeeding. Still, research about breastfeeding and Zofran is very limited. As such, some healthcare providers avoid prescribing it if you’re breastfeeding a newborn or preterm baby.
What if you’re already breastfeeding your baby and want to take Zofran?
Using Zofran for nausea isn’t usually considered a reason to stop breastfeeding. However, it may be wise to consider another drug that has been further researched, especially if you’re breastfeeding a newborn or preterm baby.
Your healthcare provider can work with you to weigh the potential risks and benefits. When making a determination about the use of Zofran, you should notify them of:
- any allergies or prior reactions to medications
- any other drugs you’re currently taking or have taken recently
- any medical conditions
It’s a good idea to check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before taking any over-the-counter (OTC) medication. In addition to making sure it’s safe to consume, they can help alert you to any safety concerns about breastfeeding while on a particular medication.
A couple of OTC medications that help calm stomachs and ease nausea include:
Depending on your particular situation, your healthcare provider might suggest a prescription medication for nausea that’s different than Zofran — and better researched for its effects on breastfeeding infants.
Potential medication options include metoclopramide and prochlorperazine, but you’ll want to discuss the benefits and possible risks with your provider.
If you want to address your nausea without medication, some methods you can try include:
- consuming ginger
- using peppermint or lemon aromatherapy
- getting acupuncture or acupressure
- taking time to meditate and do controlled breathing exercises
- consuming vitamin B6 supplements
- drinking chamomile tea
You may also want to try:
- increasing your water consumption and snacking frequently throughout the day
- spending more time resting (We know, this can be tricky with a newborn!)
- eating complex carbs right before and during breastfeeding
- trying things that were effective for morning sickness during your early pregnancy
Talk with your healthcare provider immediately if nausea is accompanied by:
- a severe headache
- chest pain
- difficulty breathing
- the suspicion that you’ve ingested something poisonous
- signs of dehydration or a medical emergency
If nausea prohibits you from eating or drinking for more than 12 hours or doesn’t subside in 24 hours with the aid of OTC medications, consult your healthcare provider. It’s important to avoid dehydration and rule out other medical concerns.
Don’t hesitate to seek medical advice if you feel something is wrong.
Nausea isn’t just limited to mornings or the first trimester. Queasiness can not only appear throughout your pregnancy but also during the postpartum period.
If you experience nausea during your postpartum recovery or while breastfeeding, speak with your healthcare provider about all of the various anti-nausea options available to you.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of research available on the safety of using Zofran while breastfeeding. Hopefully, this will change in the near future.