MAR 20, 2019 11:39 AM PDT

First Drug for Postpartum Depression

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the first ever drug specifically for the treatment of postpartum depression--a common and often devastating condition for new mothers which interferes with the maternal-infant bond. The approval of the drug came after the success of two clinical trials."Postpartum depression is a serious condition that, when severe, can be life-threatening," noted the FDA's Dr. Tiffany Farchione, who is acting director of the Division of Psychiatry Products in the agency's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "Women may experience thoughts about harming themselves or harming their child."

The drug is called Zulesso (brexanolone) and would be delivered intravenously.

"There is tremendous stigma around postpartum depression for women. Many women experience great shame and feel inadequate as mothers if they struggle with depression at a time that is supposed to be joyous ," says Dr. Martha Wald, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst at Duke University, in Winston-Salem, N.C. "Because of this stigma, many women choose to not seek help and endure great suffering in silence," she said. "Postpartum depression affects 15 to 20 percent of the general population, and at least half of this group goes untreated. As more targeted treatments like this become available, more mothers are likely to seek and benefit from treatment."

Zulesso is different than any other antidepressant as it specifically acts on the main inhibitory neurotransmitter system of the brain, the GABA system. The drug also cocnatins an aturally occurring steroid in the body—allopregnanolone. "Allopregnanolone is known to modulate the stress response system in humans, which has been shown to be abnormally functioning in women with postpartum depression," explained Dr. Kristina Deligiannidis, the lead investigator on the clinical trials that led to Zulesso's approval.


About the Author
Doctorate (PhD)
Nouran is a scientist, educator, and life-long learner with a passion for making science more communicable. When not busy in the lab isolating blood macrophages, she enjoys writing on various STEM topics.
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