Thursday, July 9, 2015

Talk to Me: PPD and D-MER

I mentioned in a previous post that I had experienced post part depression after my third son was born. I wanted to write a post about how I realized I was suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) and dysphoric milk ejection reflex (D-MER), and what I was able to do to climb out of the brackish pit.

I was sitting on my couch not long after baby 3 was born, he was snuggled in for a nurse. All of a sudden this wave of despair washed over me. Not just the "Oh, I'm sad right now." kind, but the "Why bother even trying to go on? Life is worse then it has ever been." And also thoughts like, "I seriously hate my husband. I cannot even understand why I married him." This would last for about 10 seconds, and then it would pass. After about two weeks of this, I noticed these deep troughs of feeling correlated with nursings, more specifically when my milk let down. I dreaded it. Not long after that I realized I had read about this phenomenon while randomly browsing for birth stories on the internet. I was suffering from moderate dysphoric milk ejection reflex, or D-MER. (They hyphenate it because the acronym "DMER" had already been taken...)

D-MER is not the same as PPD, although mothers can have both. Also, it is not psychological in nature. I'll repeat that: D-MER is not psychological in nature. It is an anomaly based on the chemistry of milk let down. The best science of our day says that when prolactin goes up (it does more than just make you make milk, but for our purposes think of it is the lactation hormone) dopamine levels plummet for just a few seconds. In mothers who are experiencing D-MER, for some reason they feel that dopamine plummet as a wave of depressive feelings ranging from mild sadness, to more severe suicidal thoughts. Often the anomaly just sort of fizzles out as the mother and baby continue on their nursing journey. For some mothers they need to cease nursing their baby, because the wild hormone fluctuations are too damaging. (Yet another reason to stave off judgment for the mothers who do not nurse their babies.)

My remedies: 

  1. I personally felt greatly relieved from merely remembering what I had read. It's always nice to know you're not going crazy. This epiphany didn't make the sinking despair go away, though, it simply buoyed me up for the times I would experience it. 
  2. I am not a doctor, but I will tell you that I was able to find some information during that time that linked poor dopamine responses to magnesium deficiencies. I am a big proponent of getting the things we need from our foods, but I am not above taking a well chosen supplement. They can be life saving at times. I started supplementing with magnesium and it helped. Magnesium is a tricky mineral to supplement, because it can cause loose stools, and yet it needs to be in the intestines long enough to be absorbed... Good news is, even though supplementing is tricky, it did help some. It did not completely fix the problem, but I did find marked improvement. And luckily for me, the problem resolved with time. My main man and I have nursed longer than any of my other babes. I'm so grateful to be able to do it.

That isn't where things ended, though. Shortly after realizing all that craziness, I found myself standing in my kitchen one day just staring out my back window worried. I was worried about just about anything that my mind could grab hold of, but usually wild imaginings of what people thought of things I had said, or the way I had done this or that. I was anxious, restless, and just sad. It hit me that day as I was staring out the window, I hadn't always felt like that. I hadn't always felt so perpetually sad, and tired all the time. I am an active woman, and I while I wanted to be active still, I just felt tired. I spent some time searching in my mind that day, wondering when I all of a sudden felt so sure anything that was bad that could possibly happen would... and it hit me like a lightning bolt, this was postpartum depression. I hadn't felt this way a few long weeks ago while I was pregnant; it had been a good pregnancy, though it was a surprise.

My remedies: 

  1. I remembered that day that I had read an article written by a homeopath on different remedies for anxiety and depression. (I know, am I not the biggest nerd the world has ever seen? I just read all these seemingly random articles, but they come in so handy. Maybe it's God...) I found the article, and tried the homeopathic remedy Ignatia Amara (I used 30C). I felt miraculous improvement with this remedy, within minutes of taking it. Our house is never without it now. I have since moved on to my constitutional remedy, Sepia.
  2. During this same time, I also remembered the billion times I had been told PPD is strongly correlated to low vitamin B-12 levels, so I went in search of a good supplement for that. I took methylcobalamin (B-12), but didn't see any results. I was so disappointed. But I began to wonder about other B vitamins as well. To make a long story short, there are many different B vitamins all lumped together in what is referred to as a complex. The whole B vitamin complex is interconnected, and work closely together. I found that by supplementing one of the B vitamins, a person can unwittingly drive down level of other members of the B complex, and most, if not all of them have psychological effects because of their physiologic effects on our beautiful bodies and brains. After doing a lot of research I was able to find the most amazing food based B complex supplement. Ever.

I want to stress that these did not completely get rid of all of my symptoms 100% the first time taking them. The homeopathic remedy was awesome for minute to minute help, those times when I could just feel the anxiety creeping in. It is my miracle for that time frame. The B complex helped me feel at least 80% better after a small amount of time. I can't really say how long it was, I just realized one day, I wasn't fretful anymore. The last 20% has come with time as I have continued with the B complex.

I know there are a lot of people who are totally skeptical of homeopathic remedies. I can't say that I blame them, but I am here to tell you all they do work. I'll write my next post about the actual science (it is there oh ye doubters). Edit: Here is that post now!

So let's talk about this ladies. Have you experienced PPD, or D-MER? What was your experience like? What did you find that helped you? Or have you not? Are you still suffering? Please talk to us here. We would love to listen. Sometimes a listening, and empathetic ear can do wonders.

If you are wondering, but not sure that you have depression, here is a wonderful post with a list of possible symptoms.


  1. I've experienced PPD, but never D-MER. I'm glad you realized what was going on. Like you said, just knowing what's going on can relieve so much of the anxiety.

    Thank you for your suggestions! It's hard doing this kind of research and testing whey you're not doing so well. I'm going to try the food based B complex supplement that has helped you.

  2. I'm excited to know that such a thing as D-MER is real. I have definitely suffered from it, but I had never realized such a thing existed!

    1. I'm so sorry you have experienced this and never knew what was happening! I suspect that happens often, and it just makes me heart sick. It was miserable enough experiencing it while knowing what was! I can't imagine how that must have been for you. I hope your symptoms have subsided!

  3. This is great information that I hope will reach many! I had never heard of D-MER either. I don't think I've ever had severe PPD, but I can definitely say that the days I missed taking my placenta caps following my last birth were easily my hardest days.

    I second the recommendation for the B complex! Love to try out the homeopathic remedies, too. Don't forget to post the cool article you promised on their validity (not that I'm a doubter... just a reminder). :)

  4. Thank you for this. I believe I have both dmer and ppd. I had my 4th baby 6 weeks ago and had ppd with my first. The dmer is new to me and found a name for what I was feeling on google. I havent talked to my doc yet but scored a 17 on the edinburgh scale and have all but one of the symptoms on the list you posted. Not sure where to go from here