SACRAMENTO, CA - In a growing trend, some moms are turning to drugs to increase their breast milk production.
The two most commonly prescribed drugs are Domperidone and Reglan. Both were created to help with gastrointestinal, GI, problems, but are being taken for their side effects instead: to increase prolactin levels; prolactin is the main hormone that stimulates breast milk production in women.
"The reason they were invented, created, synthesized was for something completely different," Mercy Hospital Dr. Ruth Haskins explained.
"It's so frustrating, because as a mother, that's what you're supposed to do," said Heather Schmid, whose daughter Julia was born seven weeks early.
Schmid took the drug Domperidone to help increase her prolactin levels. She said the drug worked for her and helped her feel normal.
"It was instant relief, I felt like, 'okay, I'm being a good mother,'" Schmid said.
Haskins said giving a mother Domperidone has few, if any, side effects; however, she said Reglan (metoclopramide)crosses the blood-brain barrier, and can cause irreversible facial spasms and is associated with anxiety, sedation and in some cases, severe depression.
"In an under rested mom, add a drug that causes sedation, and it's a recipe for disaster," Haskins said.
In addition, Reglan can be passed on to the baby. On the drug's label is a precaution to nursing mothers: Reglan "is excreted in human milk" and "caution should be exercised" when breastfeeding.
Despite the warnings, Haskins said the drug is still being prescribed.
"We prescribe it selectively depending on what's best for the patient," Haskins said.
Mid-Wife and Birth Center in Sacramento Owner Ruth Cummings said she's seen first-hand mothers how they were negatively affected after taking Reglan, showing symptoms such as depression and headaches.
"I would never prescribe Reglan for somebody," Cummings said.
Cummings said if you've tried everything from pumping to taking herbal supplements, and you're still unable to breastfeed, Domperidone is the superior choice.
"If you have an option to give women something that gives them side effects versus not, I would prefer to give them no side effects because they're new moms, they don't need anything else," Cummings explained.
It is important to consult your doctor before taking any medication.
The California Medical Board and the FDA said it is legal for doctors to prescribe drugs for their side effects, as long as the risks and warnings are explained to the patient.
News10 has made many attempts to contact the manufacturer of Reglan, but our calls and emails were not immediately returned.