As if pregnancy wasn't rough enough, there's no guarantee that after pregnancy things will be all roses, either (and I'm not even talking about diapers.) Thankfully, women may have one less thing to worry about, thanks to the fact that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved the first postpartum depression treatment. So, what is Zulresso? It's going to be a life saver for so many new mothers.
On Tuesday, March 19, the FDA approved Zulresso, or brexanolone, the first drug ever specifically developed to help with postpartum depression. Brexanolone is a synthetic form of allopregnanolone, a hormone which increases while a woman is pregnant and crashes after she gives birth, thus possibly resulting in postpartum depression. NBC News reports that in double-blind and placebo controlled clinical trials, many of the women with "moderate to severe" postpartum depression saw improvement within 24 hours, and the improvement was ongoing 30 days later, when the trial ended. As opposed to other FDA drugs, brexanolone will not come in a pill form and instead will be injected intravenously, in a single 60-hour treatment (so, two and a half days).
Postpartum depression is a condition that may overcome new mothers with intense feelings of anxiety, sadness, and sometimes makes women physically unable to care for their child and family. In certain cases, a mother experiencing postpartum depression could even endanger the welfare of their child. The American Psychological Association (APA) estimates that about one in seven women experience postpartum depression, and for half of those women this is their first episode of depression. In addition, the chances of women experiencing postpartum increase for first-time mothers or if the woman is very young or very old. Previously, women with postpartum depression were being treated with standard antidepressants, which both take a long time to kick in and may not be as effective thanks to hormonal changes as a result of pregnancy, per NBC News.
However, Zulresso is not cheap. According to NBC News, the drug is expected to cost somewhere between $20,000 to $35,000. In addition, it's still unclear how much insurance will cover for women who want this treatment.
The symptoms of postpartum depression are wide and varied, but they all deal with feelings related to anxiety, depression, apathy, and more. According to APA, sudden fluctuations in appetite, fear of being left alone with the baby, inability to sleep, excessive irritability, and disinterest in the baby are all signs that point to postpartum depression.
Postpartum depression is a common occurrence in many women, and more women have stood up and spoken out about their experiences. The likes of Christina Perri, Serena Williams, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Adele, and more have openly discussed their battle with postpartum depression, and how it made them feel hopeless.
Model and cookbook author Chrissy Teigen had some particularly moving things to say about her experience with postpartum depression after giving birth to her daughter Luna in April 2016. For the April 2017 cover story for Glamour, Teigen wrote a personal letter opening up about her experience dealing with postpartum while also raising her daughter Luna. In the letter, Teigen describes how difficult it was to get out of bed and the roller coaster of emotions she would feel throughout the day. She wrote,
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.' When I wasn't in the studio, I never left the house. I mean, never. Not even a tiptoe outside. I'd ask people who came inside why they were wet. Was it raining? How would I know — I had every shade closed.
Teigen's story is just one of many, and that's why the importance of postpartum medication is so important. The future is looking a bit brighter.