It’s the first of its kind: a drug specifically created to treat postpartum depression. This could help thousands of new moms all over the world – if it wasn’t totally unaffordable.
What is Postpartum Depression?
Postpartum depression is a mental illness (and a form of major depression) that is common to new mothers. The symptoms can range from anxiety, fatigue, numbness and sadness to episodes of anger and thoughts of suicide or harming your baby. Postpartum depression can develop at any time in the first year after giving birth.
According to The Cut, researchers believe that postpartum depression is caused by a sudden drop in the hormone brexanolone (a neurosteroid that women build up in their third trimester). When the baby is born, this hormone drops drastically and can cause the disorder.
Stigma and the Problem with Current Meds
Many women don’t tell their doctors or families about it. New mothers often don’t seek treatment at all because of the social stigma and the shame or fear of being seen as an unfit mother. NOTE: Postpartum depression is a mental disorder, not a reflection of your character.
If diagnosed at all, it’s often treated with depression/anxiety meds. But SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) take four to six weeks to kick in. And that’s just too big a wait.
Why? If you are having recurring thoughts of self-harm and/or harming your baby, four weeks is too long. These mothers often need immediate help. Waiting for the drugs to kick in isn’t ideal, particularly if there is no support at home.
Introducing the New Drug
Now the FDA (US Food and Drug Association) has just approved the first drug ever specifically made to treat postpartum depression. And it’s able to take effect within hours.
It’s called Zulresso, and it works by turning brexanolone into a form of medication. Using a IV drip, it treats the symptoms of postpartum depression in 48 hours.
In the clinical trials, women had a 70% remission rate by the second trial. But there’s a catch.
Okay, Wow, It’s Expensive AF
At around $34 000 – that’s almost half a million rand – it’s just too expensive for most mothers. This is tragic because research shows that low-income moms are at high risk for postpartum depression.
Due to the side effects (dizziness, fainting), the patient must be supervised and remain in a medical centre while being treated, reports the New York Times. Although, researchers are testing a similar drug in pill form that may be more accessible.
The drug is expected to be available to the US public in June.
But it Does Open the Conversation
The existence of this drug is a good thing in itself, because it encourages diagnoses and conversation. This will help reduce stigma. Women, hopefully, will feel more comfortable talking to their doctors and their families about the disorder – and start to see it for exactly what it is: a chemical imbalance.
‘Now, you have a drug that potentially will make people better within two days, so maybe we’ll start to treat postpartum depression as the acute, life-threatening condition it is. The most common cause of maternal death after birth is suicide. It’s not a trivial issue,’ says Jeff Jonas, CEO of Sage Therapeutics (the manufacturer).
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