HeadMeds gives young people in the United Kingdom general information about medication. HeadMeds does not give you medical advice. Please talk to your Doctor or anyone else who is supporting you about your own situation because everyone is different. Please read more important details about our site.

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Return to Sertraline overview
  1. Use and Action
  2. Warnings and side effects
  3. Sex, drink, weight and everything else
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Taking Sertraline for anxiety
I have been put on them for a reason and the willingness to try is just as important as any help given.

You can drink alcohol while taking sertraline, but it could make you very sleepy

  • You can continue to drink alcohol while taking sertraline but having the two together might make you very sleepy and unsteady on your feet.
  • So, during the first few days, it might be best to stop drinking alcohol until you see how the medicine affects you or the side-effects pass.
  • If you want to drink alcohol, remember that you might be very sleepy and make sure you can get home safely.
  • Drinking alcohol every day, or in large amounts, can make your symptoms worse and the sertraline will not get the best chance to act.

Do not drive a car or ride a bike just after you start taking sertraline

  • Taking sertraline may make you feel sleepy, dizzy and restless, and could affect your eyesight when you start taking it.
  • This could affect you if you drive a car, ride a bike, or do anything else that needs a lot of focus. It might be best to stop doing these things for the first few days, until you know how it affects you and your body gets used to it.

  • Do not worry - most people drive as normal while taking sertraline.

Try not to take sertraline for the first time just before your exams

  • Sertraline can make you feel very restless in the first few weeks that you take it, and may affect you when you sit or stand still.
  • It can also disturb your sleep, and your eyesight.
  • You should talk to your doctor about any future exams if you are starting sertraline.
  • You might decide together to delay starting it until you have done them.
  • If they are more than a month away, however, you might find that it is better to start sertraline to improve your motivation to study.
  • Do not worry - most people do exams as normal while taking sertraline.

Sertraline is not a banned substance in sport

  • Sertraline is not a banned substance in sport.
  • Taking sertraline may affect your concentration to do things like riding a bike, competitive gymnastics, or anything else that needs a lot of focus.
  • You may find it difficult to sit or stand still at first.
  • It might be best to stop such sports for the first few days, until you know how it affects you.
  • Do not worry - most people do sports as normal while taking sertraline.

Sertraline may affect your weight

  • A side-effect of sertraline can be weight loss or weight gain.
  • Gaining some weight is more likely but it is very difficult to know how it will affect each person who takes it.
  • Talk to your doctor about this if it worries you.
  • Do not take sertraline at the same time as weight loss products.

Sertraline may affect your sleep 

  • You can feel drowsy in the first few days of taking sertraline. It should, however, get better after the first week or two. If it makes you feel drowsy, try taking it just before you go to bed.
  • You could also, strangely, have difficulty getting to sleep (insomnia), and disturbing dreams or nightmares. If this happens, try taking the tablet first thing in the morning.
  • If you feel like a zombie, and you’ve been taking it for more than a month, you can go back to the doctor and see what else you could do.

Let your family and friends know you are taking sertraline so they can support you and help you look out for side effects

  • The side-effects of sertraline might put a strain on your friendships and relationships, especially in the first few days of taking it.
  • You might feel restless, overexcited, anxious, or sleepy.
  • These side-effects should get better after a few days.
  • You should then be getting the good effects of sertraline, and that should improve your relationships in itself.
  • It might actually be a great idea to choose a good friend to tell about your medicine when you start taking it. (Or - even better - to take a friend with you to the doctor before you start taking the medicine!)
  • They could look at the medicine leaflet, or at this website.
  • They could help you to understand whether the medicine changes your behaviour, or gives you side-effects (sometimes it is hard for us to see it ourselves).

Sertraline can have side-effects that might affect your sex life

The good effects of sertraline may, after a while, have a good effect on your sex life as your mood lifts and you become interested in life and relationships again.

Some possible negative side effects include:

  • You may have a lower sex drive
  • Men might get painful erections, or problems with getting hard (getting an erection) and coming (ejaculating)
  • Men might get a painful erection that lasts for a long time (priapism), and would need to see a doctor for help straight away
  • Women might have some bleeding from their vagina, and might not come (reach orgasm) the same way as before
  • Both men and women might see some growth in their breasts, and some milk flow (this is extremely rare)

These effects should pass after the first couple of weeks. If they do not, and this is a problem for you, go back to the doctor and see what else you could try.

Sertraline does not seem to affect human fertility

  • There has not been any concerns about fertility problems with sertraline.

Women who are trying to get pregnant should not take sertraline unless they have talked about it with their doctor (see below for more information).

Is it safe to take sertraline in pregnancy?

There is no yes or no answer to this question. When deciding whether or not to take sertraline during pregnancy it is important to weigh up how necessary sertraline is to your health against the possible risks to you or your baby, some of which will depend on how many weeks pregnant you are.

Remaining well is particularly important during pregnancy and while caring for a baby. For some women, treatment with sertraline in pregnancy may be the best option for both mother and baby.

Please consult the UK Teratology Information Service’s Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy (Bumps) website for more information, including specific information on sertraline in pregnancy.

  • If you do become pregnant while you are on sertraline, you should carry on taking the medicine and go back to your doctor as soon as possible, to see if you should change or stop your medicine.
  • If you agree - with your doctor - to carry on taking sertraline, you should tell your midwife that you are taking it before you give birth.
  • If sertraline is taken in the last 5 months of a pregnancy, it can sometimes cause a condition called persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN).
  • This happens in around 12 out of 1,000 births, but it can be serious. This compares with a rate of 2 in 1,000 in women not on antidepressants
  • This can make the baby breathe faster and look a bit blue in colour. This happens in the first 24 hours after birth: you will need help from the midwife and doctors, so it is better if they are looking out for problems.
  • There are some other symptoms that can happen in newborn babies if sertraline is taken in the last 3 months of pregnancy, so do look out for these and get help if they happen:
  • Fits or shaking
  • Being too hot or cold
  • Feeding difficulties, or being sick
  • Having stiff or floppy muscles, or overactive reflexes
  • Being jittery, irritable or having constant crying
  • Being very sleepy, or finding it difficult to sleep
  • These are usually mild and go away in a few days without treatment

Is it safe to breast feed while taking sertraline?

  • Sertraline passes to the baby in breast milk in small amounts.
  • Breast feeding may help offset any withdrawal symptoms
  • Please talk to your midwife, doctor or pharmacist if you want to breastfeed while taking sertraline.
  • Remember that it is important for you to remain well whilst you are bonding with and looking after your baby. For this reason, it may be best to take medicine for your mental health when breastfeeding.
  • You may also need to consider bottle feeding with formula milk if there are any problems with breastfeeding whilst taking medicines.
  • Talk to your doctor or midwife about your feeding options.
  • Make sure that your doctor, nurse, or health visitor checks your baby for any side effects.
  • If your baby was premature or has health problems, then you will need to be extra careful about taking medicines whilst breastfeeding. It may be best not to breastfeed if this is the case, however you should discuss this with your doctor.
  • For more information about breastfeeding when taking antidepressants, please see the Breastfeeding Network website: https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/wp-content/dibm/anti-depressantsandbreastfeeding.pdf

Sertraline can produce a false positive result in some drug tests

  • Sertraline can produce a false positive test for benzodiazepines and LSD on a urine drug screen.
  • Talk to your doctor about this if it is a problem for you.