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FDA Announces Zulresso, 1st Drug for Postpartum Depression

Breaking News: Zulresso announced as the first drug developed specifically for the treatment of postpartum depression. At the Thrifty Patient, we believe in Five Pillars of Health – financial, social, mental, spiritual, physical, and social. Postpartum depression touches upon all five and is a distressing multi-generational issue which effects so many new mothers.

What is Postpartum Depression?

Postpartum depression is a serious and debilitating condition that impacts 1 in 7 women. That’s about 7.8 million pregnant women every year.

FDA announces Postpartum Depression Drug Zulresso

Postpartum depression symptoms include – feeling unusually depressed, tired, irritable, detached, or angry throughout the day. Experiencing, a sinking feeling or an anxiety that you “just can’t shake”. It can also impact a mother’s ability to bond with their baby. There’s also a feeling of shame often associated with postpartum depression. Many women feel that they shouldn’t be feeling depressed following pregnancy or the birth of their child(ren). For many this makes postpartum depression even harder to talk about. Click here for more signs and symptoms of postpartum depression.   

The cause of postpartum depression is complex and not precisely known. What researchers and physicians do know is that it’s caused by a combination of physiological, hormonal, mental, and social stressors.

For a long time psychologists have known that both ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ events can stress our bodies. A questionnaire called the Social Readjustment Rating Scale was even developed by University of Washington School of Medicine researchers Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe that takes into account both positive and negative life events. While there are some questions about the scale (each individual is unique in how they react to live events) the point is an important one. Pregnancy, and all of the social, physical, and mental implications of it cause stress. For 1 in 7 women this stress may contribute to postpartum depression.

Current Postpartum Depression Treaments

Until now, doctors have treated postpartum depression just like other forms of depression – with antidepressants, psychotherapy, and emphasizing social support. In addition, there has been some promising research regarding the employment of exercise, diet, massage, and mindfulness. However, until now there haven’t been any medications developed specifically for the treatment of postpartum depression. In addition, treatment has traditionally been complicated by the fact that some antidepressants can be passed to the infant through breast milk, while others are simply ineffective. With the development of Zulresso, there may finally be a drug that works better then current drug treatments, but without the downside that the current anti-depressants carry.

What is Zulresso (Brexanolone)?

Zulresso (common name Brexanolone) is a very interesting drug developed by Sage Therapeutics that targets and modifies how the body’s GABAA receptors work. The exact mechanism of action is unknown and still being studied. The FDA reports that they believe it is a positive allosteric interaction acting upon the GABAA receptors. Exactly how this impacts the body is a bit complex, and it might be easier to simply compare it to another drug. For example, Ambien (Zolpidem) works in a similar manner.

However what we do know is that Zulresso is a synthetic version of a hormone, allopregnanolone, that women naturally make during pregnancy. This hormone, is a derivative of progesterone. Interestingly, Allopregnanolone levels increase during pregnancy, but then dramatically decrease after giving birth – more evidence pointing to the hormone component of postpartum depression.

For more information about this exciting new drug, visit the FDA’s page featuring the announcement or if you or a loved one is interested in applying for the Zulresso study, you should speak with your physician about Sage Therapeutics’ REMS (Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies) program. You can find out more about this program in the FDA announcement.

We’re hoping the clinical trials of Zulresso show that it’s a safe and effective drug that’ll help millions of women and their families. If you’re interested in learning more about postpartum Depression, take a look at Sage Therapeutics’ new informational website. It’s dedicated to spreading awareness about the impact of postpartum depression.

Copyright 2019, Thrifty Patient, LLC.

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