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Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed®) [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; 2006-.

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Drugs and Lactation Database (LactMed®) [Internet].

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Last Revision: May 15, 2024.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

CASRN: 23031-25-6

image 134993786 in the ncbi pubchem database

Drug Levels and Effects

Summary of Use during Lactation

Maternal use of oral or inhaled terbutaline is unlikely to affect a breastfed infant. The authors of several reviews and an expert panel agree that use of inhaled bronchodilators is acceptable during breastfeeding because of the low bioavailability and maternal serum levels after use.[1-3] Terbutaline use as a tocolytic agent might decrease the duration of breastfeeding.

Drug Levels

Maternal Levels. With long-term maternal intake of 2.5 or 5 mg three times daily orally, milk terbutaline levels ranged from 2.5 to 4 mcg/L at various times during the dosing interval. There was little fluctuation of milk levels. The average dose that an exclusively breastfed infant would receive based on these patients is 1.4% (range 0.7 to 2.2%) of the maternal weight-adjusted dose.[4-6]

Infant Levels. Serum levels were undetectable (<0.1 mcg/L) in one 8-week-old exclusively breastfed infant whose mother was taking oral terbutaline 5 mg three times daily.[4,6]

Effects in Breastfed Infants

Two papers have reported a total of 4 infants aged 3 to 8 weeks who were breastfed during maternal use of oral terbutaline 2.5 or 5 mg three times daily. None of the infants had any signs of sympathetic stimulation and all were developing normally.[5,6] These cases were also summarized in a third publication.[4]

Effects on Lactation and Breastmilk

A small retrospective survey from Serbia found that mothers who received a beta agonist pharmacologically similar to terbutaline (fenoterol or hexoprenaline) as a tocolytic breastfed for a shorter period of time than those who received no tocolytic (4.5 vs 9.5 months).[7]It is not known if terbutaline has a similar effect.

A study in an Australian hospital compared breastfeeding outcomes in women who received a cesarean section during 2 time periods. During the first time period women did not receive terbutaline before a category one or two cesarean section (n = 423). In the second period, all women receiving a category one or two cesarean section received terbutaline 250 mcg subcutaneously as a tocolytic agent unless there was a contraindication at the time a decision was made to perform a cesarean section (n = 253). The breastfeeding rates at the time of discharge were 95% in the first period and 99% in the second period. The difference was statistically significant.[8]


McDonald CF, Burdon JGW. Asthma in pregnancy and lactation. A position paper for the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand. Med J Aust 1996;165:485-8. [PubMed: 8937369]
Nelson-Piercy C. Asthma in pregnancy. Thorax 2001;56:325-8. [PMC free article: PMC1746013] [PubMed: 11254828]
National Heart, Lung, and Blood, Institute, National Asthma, Education, and, Prevention, Program, Asthma, and, Pregnancy, Working, Group. NAEPP expert panel report. Managing asthma during pregnancy: recommendations for pharmacologic treatment-2004 update. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2005;115:34-46. [PubMed: 15637545]
Lindberg C, Boréus LO, de Château P, et al. Transfer of terbutaline into breast milk. Eur J Respir Dis Suppl 1984;134:87-91. [PubMed: 6586490]
Boréus LO, de Château P, Lindberg C, Nyberg L. Terbutaline in breast milk. Br J Clin Pharmacol 1982;13:731-2. [PMC free article: PMC1402089] [PubMed: 7082542]
Lönnerholm G, Lindström B. Terbutaline excretion into breast milk. Br J Clin Pharmacol 1982;13:729-30. [PMC free article: PMC1402083] [PubMed: 7082541]
Bjelakovic L, Trajkovic T, Kocic G, et al. The association of prenatal tocolysis and breastfeeding duration. Breastfeed Med 2016;11:561-3. [PubMed: 27704871]
Buckley VA, Wu J, De Vries B. Outcomes following acute tocolysis prior to emergency caesarean section. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol 2020;60:884-9. [PubMed: 32378185]

Substance Identification

Substance Name


CAS Registry Number


Drug Class

Breast Feeding


Milk, Human

Bronchodilator Agents

Beta Adrenergic Agonists

Disclaimer: 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.

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Attribution Statement: LactMed is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Bookshelf ID: NBK501107PMID: 30000166


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