For the approximately 1 in 7 people who experience postpartum depression after giving birth, there is some hope. The American Journal of Psychiatry published news about promising clinical trial results of a new postpartum depression treatment drug called zuranolone.
Out of the 170 people with severe postpartum depression who participated in the 15-day trial of zuranolone, it “resulted in statistically significant improvement in depressive symptoms” for people who received the drug in just 15 days; some people even saw improvements in their symptoms within just three days. The people who received the placebo did not have the same results in reducing their depressive symptoms, unfortunately.
Here’s how the drug works: It’s not an SSRI (a drug that acts as an antidepressant, boosting the feel good-chemical serotonin in the brain), but zuranolone is a steroid that works in the brain by balancing networks of neurons that help regulate mood and behavior, for example. And after the extreme hormonal changes following birth, some people with severe postpartum depression might need something that works quickly.
Zuranolone is given as a 15-day dose of 50 milligrams, and then clinicians follow the patient after 28 and 45 days to see their progress — study participants even showed fewer depressive symptoms after those check-ins, a positive sign for the drug. With these results, it will likely be greenlit with a review by the FDA soon and will available to the public by next week: August 5, 2023.
What are the signs of postpartum depression?
Postpartum depression can happen to anyone. While most people do experience some mood changes in the first two weeks after giving birth, often termed the “baby blues,” postpartum depression is more serious and typically goes well beyond the first few weeks after birth. Some of the red flags of postpartum depression include insomnia, low mood or lack of interest for most of the day, loss of energy or concentration, or changes in weight and appetite.
Certain people may be more at risk for developing postpartum mental health conditions than others, including anyone who has a history of anxiety of depression. Some people who have had a high-risk pregnancy or traumatic birth may also be at a higher risk for postpartum depression. And of course lack of social support and inadequate nutrition is also a factor in developing postpartum mental health conditions, especially in Black and brown communities and communities of poverty.
No one should have to suffer through postpartum depression without help. If you or someone you know are experiencing someone of these symptoms after giving birth, connect to an OB/GYN, primary care physician, or SAMSHA for assistance getting postpartum depression treatment.
Before you go, check out these accessible, affordable mental health apps: