A Medication For Postpartum Depression?

By Victoria Kim 11/06/18

Currently, there are no FDA-approved drugs specifically to treat postpartum depression.

worried mother holding child

The FDA is considering the approval of a new medication that would treat severe postpartum depression.

Some women may experience mood swings or “baby blues” after childbirth while others experience more severe, longer-lasting symptoms, known as postpartum depression (PPD).

Currently there are no FDA-approved drugs specifically to treat PPD. And data on the efficacy of existing antidepressants on PPD is limited.

Brexanolone (brand name Zulresso) may change that, Fortune reports.

How does brexanolone differ from existing antidepressants?

Brexanolone mimics the functioning of the human hormone known as allopregnanolone. Allopregnanolone increases in a woman’s body during pregnancy and peaks during the third trimester. After delivery, however, levels of allopregnanolone fall abruptly, the FDA explains.

Brexanolone, an injection, works to return women to pre-delivery levels of allopregnanolone. 

Postpartum depression is considered a life-threatening condition because of the risk of suicide, the FDA says. “It also has profound negative effects on the maternal-infant bond and later infant development.”

According to the FDA, suicide is the most common cause of maternal death after childbirth in the developed world. Approximately 12% of births are affected by PPD in the United States.

Despite how many women experience PPD, some say it is not talked about enough.

“I think people need to talk about it more because it’s almost like the fourth trimester, it’s part of the pregnancy,” said tennis champ Serena Williams, while sharing her own experience with PPD.

“How can I feel this way when everything is so great? I’ve had a hard time coming to terms with that, and I hesitated to even talk about this,” said TV personality Chrissy Teigen.

“I couldn’t figure out why I was so unhappy. I blamed it on being tired and possibly growing out of the role: ‘Maybe I’m just not a goofy person anymore. Maybe I’m just supposed to be a mom,’” the Lip Sync Battle host said.

Symptoms of postpartum depression can arise within the first few weeks after giving birth. Some may begin earlier (during pregnancy) or later (up to a year after birth), according to Mayo Clinic.

An FDA advisory committee voted 18-0 that Zulresso is effective in treating PPD—however, they mentioned “some reservations about the safety of home infusion,” Seeking Alpha reports.

A decision by the FDA is expected by December 19.

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