Although breastfeeding is a perfect opportunity to bond with your baby, it doesn’t come without its challenges. For moms who have experienced dysphoric milk ejection reflex (D-Mer) syndrome as a side effect of breastfeeding, you’ve had another layer of psychological and emotional strain to deal with. And you may not even know that’s what you were experiencing. As you’re counting up the cost of having more children, it’s natural to wonder if D-Mer syndrome comes back with every pregnancy.
What is D-Mer syndrome?
With D-Mer syndrome, “an abrupt drop in dopamine may occur in mothers breastfeeding when milk release is triggered,” says OB-GYN Dr. Monte Swarup, M.D. This drop can bring a wave of negative feelings, typically lasting for under five minutes.
“The brief negative feelings range in severity from wistfulness to self-loathing,” says OB-GYN Dr. Kimberly Langdon, M.D. She adds that dopamine “is a neurotransmitter responsible for good feeling,” which, when low, can leave you to have increased irritability and anxiety.
“D-Mer may interfere with the mother's ability to maintain an appropriate breastfeeding schedule,” Swarup says. Since clinical researchers have found that only 9.1% of women experience it, it’s considered a rare condition.
Coping with D-Mer syndrome can be difficult, especially when you’re trying to push through the overwhelming feelings to feed your baby. But here’s what experts say about what can happen with future pregnancies.
How long does D-Mer last?
Langdon says that D-Mer seemst to only last in the actual act of breastfeeding, but goes away when your baby unlatches.
Aside from the few minutes you feel overwhelming sadness, when you decide to wean your baby off breastfeeding, D-Mer should no longer be an issue. Especially since the trigger for it is your milk letdown.
Is there a treatment for D-Mer?
“There are no approved medications to treat dysphoric milk ejection reflex,” Swarup says. “Dopamine inhibitors could help, such as Buproprion, but there are no studies to support its use.”
Speak with your healthcare provider to see if they can recommend some helpful coping techniques.
Does D-Mer come back with every pregnancy?
“There is no research to support that a mother is likely to have a repeat occurrence of D-Mer in future pregnancies,” Swarup says.
Studies on this condition are still being conducted as it is a newly recognized phenom among mothers. With other pregnancy-related conditions, like postpartum depression, there’s a 10 to 50% chance it will return with subsequent pregnancies. But a rate of re-occurrence hasn’t yet been assigned to D-Mer.
“This is a newly described condition with little research on it,” says Langdon.
Because of the limited information, healthcare providers rarely recognize this condition. However, if you have the described symptoms, you should discuss the severity and frequency with your provider. Hopefully, you can come up with a plan together that addresses how D-Mer affects you and what can help you through the tough moments.
Dr. Monte Swarup, M.D., OB-GYN
Dr. Kimberly Langdon, M.D., OB-GYN