The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first drug specifically designed to treat postpartum depression. In the U.S., about 1 in 9 mothers experience depression after having a baby. But the new drug is providing hope.
After the birth of her first child, Stephanie Hathaway spent six months on antidepressants fighting postpartum depression. When the symptoms came back after the birth of her second child, she was despondent.
“Things that used to bring you joy now drain you. People say things meaning to help, and it ends up hurting. And you’re just so hopeless,” she said.
Symptoms of postpartum depression can include sadness, anxiety, irritability, loss of appetite and self harm.
Hathaway was part of a clinical trial of the new drug led by Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody.
“The drug was very effective for treating women quickly with severe postpartum depression,” Meltzer-Brody said.
The drug will be known as Zulresso, given in an IV over a three-day period in the hospital. It rebalances hormones that spike during pregnancy and plummet after birth. Unlike conventional antidepressants, the effect can be almost immediate.
“The first twelve hours I didn’t feel any different. I went to sleep, I woke up, and the thoughts were gone,” Hathaway said.
Researchers stress women need to be screened and discuss all treatment options. This drug, which should be available by June, will be an option for treating women very quickly and that’s important because the first few weeks of life are such a critical time for mother and baby.