New babies truly are little bundles of joy! Sadly, though, for many women, childbirth comes with debilitating depression. Antidepressants don’t always help…or can take weeks or months to work—putting both mother and baby at serious risk. Good news: A new drug promises almost immediate relief from even the most severe postpartum depression.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the first-ever drug that specifically treats postpartum depression. A single intravenous dose of the drug, brexanolone (Zulresso), provides relief as quickly as within 48 hours. There is no need for additional doses…and it doesn’t interfere with other antidepressants the patient may be taking. It is even safe to resume nursing within a few days after receiving the drug.
While brexanolone is an important breakthrough, there are considerations that may be drawbacks for some women. The drug is administered over a 60-hour period, requiring a two-and-a-half day stay at a hospital or other medical center while being monitored for headaches, nausea, sleepiness, dizziness and/or fainting—temporary side effects noted in clinical trials of the drug. The drug also is not cheap—possibly as much as $34,000, not including hospital or medical facility costs. Whether or how much of treatment costs will be covered by insurance is not yet clear. Note: A pill that will work similarly to brexanolone is in clinical trials. If successful, the pills could potentially improve both availability and cost.
Even taking potential drawbacks into consideration, for the millions of women who suffer each year from postpartum depression, brexanolone could be a welcome light at the end of their dark tunnel. Postpartum depression is a serious condition, affecting one out of seven women who give birth. Severe postpartum depression can be life-threatening. But even milder forms interfere with the care, bonding and nurturing between mother and child that is so essential for healthy child development.