‘The darkest period of my life’: I struggled to breastfeed – then a drug sent me spiralling

The Guardian has this personal account by Rose Stokes, a UK mother who took increasing dosages of the anti-nausea neuroleptic drug domperidone in an effort to help her breastfeeding — and then, after stopping, found herself struggling with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts: 

“It is 11 days since I gave birth to my first baby. My breast milk still hasn’t “come in” properly and no one can tell me why. Midwives come and go, looking at me sympathetically and telling me to feed on demand, pump whenever I can and top up with formula milk. Still, I have no idea how I am going to exclusively breastfeed my child, which is what all the advice recommends.

Sleepless, anxious and desperate, I do what many others with the privilege of disposable income do in this situation and pay for a private consultant. I find a local International Board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) online and we meet. She diagnoses my son with tongue-tie, which she treats by snipping the skin connecting his tongue to the bottom of his mouth. She also suggests that I start taking a drug I have never heard of, domperidone, to help me produce more milk. . . . 

My mental state is getting worse – and so is breastfeeding. Although I have spent a large chunk of my savings – and poured hundreds of hours into pumping, feeding and desperately searching for solutions online – my son, at 10 weeks old, refuses to breastfeed. My domperidone dose is more than five times what the NHS recommends. I am producing slightly more milk, but it is not consistent. I battle on for two more painful weeks before I admit to myself that I have failed.

I email the private doctor to let them know that I will be stopping the domperidone. The doctor responds to say they are sorry it didn’t work out. The email contains no advice about coming off the drug, so I simply stop taking it the next day.

About five days later, my emotional state worsens. I cry for hours at a time and I have panic attacks. I become convinced that I am not fit to take care of my son and that I will cause him harm. I call his dad and beg him to come home. I call 999, too, but hang up before I get through. I am too scared to admit to a stranger that I might be losing touch with reality. I am terrified that any professional I tell might take him away from me.”

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