PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The FDA approved the first drug specifically targeting women suffering from postpartum depression, a major milestone for this condition.
Postpartum depression and generalized depression are different and caused by different mechanisms. The new drug is a pill intended only for the postpartum group.
“I think it’s a great advancement,” said Dr. Alexa Bonacquisti of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Bonacquisti said there is a big drop in hormones after giving birth.
“Some women may be more vulnerable to those kinds of changes,” Bonacquisti said.
The recently approved drug, Zuranolone, helps regulate brain chemicals affected by fluctuating hormones. The drugmaker’s study showed that after two weeks of taking the drug, women with severe postpartum depression had “significant improvements in depressive symptoms” compared to those given a placebo.
Researchers said some women experienced symptom relief after as little as three days. The improvements were still reported 28 and 45 days later.
“It targets a different type of brain chemical than other drugs for depression,” Bonacquisti said.
Postpartum depression can occur anytime within the first year after giving birth. Symptoms that can occur during pregnancy include feeling sad, hopeless, or guilty. Symptoms also include loss of energy, trouble sleeping, and in severe cases suicidal thoughts or attempts.
“It’s a little bit different than garden variety depression because it comes with a lot of anxiety and agitation,” said Dr. Nirmaljit Dhami, medical director of inpatient perinatal psychiatry at El Camino Health.
It is estimated that one in seven new mothers suffers from postpartum depression. It can range from mild to severe.
“That’s a typical misconception in our society that new motherhood is filled with joy and incredible experiences,” said Bonacquisti. “There can be challenges and guilt, embarrassment of sharing that and reaching out for help.”
The new drug does have some side effects, such as dizziness. It cannot be used by women who are breastfeeding.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, help is available. You can reach the Suicide and Crisis Helpline by calling 9-8-8.