Every time Deena Todd breastfed her first born baby she found herself overcome with feelings of anxiety and dread, which left her in tears every time she nursed.
Though doctors dismissed her symptoms as postnatal depression, the 31-year-old mum was actually suffering from a rare condition known as ‘breastfeeding dysphoria’, or D-MER, which caused her to feel intense dread every time she released milk.
Deena from, Yeovil, Somerset, could not understand why, when she breastfed her first born, Isla, now five, she felt strong feelings of dread, homesickness and anxiety.
But after weeks of online research, she discovered dysphoric milk ejection reflex, also known as D-MER.
The condition is an anomaly of the milk release mechanism in lactating women which causes them to feel intense feelings of dysphoria just prior to their breasts releasing milk due to hormonal fluctuations.
Deena’s suspicions she had D-MER were confirmed when she suffered the exact same symptoms after the birth of second child Koby, eight months.
The mum-of-two said the first time she felt the negative feelings she was in hospital feeding her daughter for the first time.
“Initially I just felt the most intense bout of homesickness,” she said.
“Then this intense feeling of dread kicked in, it’s hard to explain but other mothers I know have described it as like killing a family dog.
“After that, I would get severe bouts of anxiety, depression and homesickness every time I breastfed, which I started associating with my daughter.
“It got so bad that when I knew I was going to pump, or breastfeed, I would just burst into tears knowing the feelings would come back.
“These feelings only came on as I was breastfeeding, and right before I started but before I knew it was a condition I just thought it was a normal way that a woman felt after having a baby.”
Deena said the feelings associated with the condition stopped her from being able to feel like a mum.
“I knew I had to care for my daughter, but I also worried that the feelings wouldn’t go,” she continued.
It was only after she diagnosed herself from online research in 2013 that she understood she was suffering from a real but little-known condition.
“By the time I knew that what I was feeling was a genuine condition, the damage had been done, and I had already started to feel like I regretted having a daughter.
“Once I realised that it was normal, and I had a name for how I was feeling, I knew it would pass and it felt amazing, I was just so relieved.”
Deena is now speaking out to raise awareness of the illness, which she claims is almost unheard of in UK medical circles.
“The problem with the condition is that because nobody knew anything about it, I thought it was me,” she says.
“I didn’t know it was a condition and doctors brushed it off.
“There’s nothing you can do to medicate this specific condition, you have to find your own way out, but it’s all about understanding why it’s happening and realising that it will go when you stop nursing.
“We really need more doctors to know what this condition is, there will be mothers sat at home now who feel like they shouldn’t be mums.
“When I knew I was going to be speaking about it I posted on the forums I’m a member of asking everyone what they wanted people to know about this condition.
“Everyone just said we need exposure, we need more health professionals to understand the condition.”
According to d-mer.org Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER) is a condition affecting lactating women that is characterised by an abrupt dysphoria, or negative emotions, that occur just before milk release and continuing not more than a few minutes.
D-MER is believed to be caused by a sudden drop in the ‘feel-good’ hormone dopamine, which pre-empts the release of breast milk.
Rather than the loving or bonding feelings many mums experience while breastfeeding, mums suffering from D-MER often experience strong negative emotions which can last for as long as milk let-down continues – usually between 30 to 90 seconds.
Although there are no official figures about the number of women suffering from D-MER experts believe the condition could be more common than previously thought because as so little is known about it, it can often be misdiagnosed as post-natal depression.
Deena has chosen to share her experiences in the hope that it might help raise awareness about the condition and encourage other mums to speak out about it in the hope that it will stop them feeling like she did.
“D-MER made me feel like a bad mother, or that I shouldn’t be one,” she adds.
And that’s something no mother deserves to feel.
For more information on D-MER visit www.d-mer.org If you think you might be suffering from D-MER visit your GP or health visitor.