By Sean Zucker –
There are a lot of things men don’t fully appreciate about pregnancy. The impact on a woman’s body to bring life into this world is significant. And afterward, they are often faced with emotional and mental challenges. In fact, The American Psychological Association (APA), reports that one in seven new moms experience postpartum depression.
While obviously significant, it’s an issue that has historically lacked the unique treatment it demands. That may have changed recently, however, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just approved the first pill to treat severe postpartum depression after a study found it to be safe and effective.
Postpartum depression is much worse than a mother simply feeling stressed, sad or anxious following their baby’s birth, per the ADA. The condition can include psychotic symptoms such as delusions or hallucinations. These symptoms may go away on their own within days or they may linger for months after childbirth. This, in turn, can negatively affect a parent’s ability to care for their new baby or even themselves. Additional symptoms such as loss of interest or pleasure, altering eating habits, intense feelings of guilt or sadness, difficulty sleeping, self-isolation or general misery may only make matters worse.
“Postpartum depression is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition in which women experience sadness, guilt, worthlessness—even, in severe cases, thoughts of harming themselves or their child. And, because postpartum depression can disrupt the maternal-infant bond, it can also have consequences for the child’s physical and emotional development,” reported Dr. Tiffany R. Farchione, director of the Division of Psychiatry in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
To combat these symptoms, the FDA recently approved Zurzuvae, an oral medication aimed at attacking postpartum depression. The FDA notes that prior to this approval, treatment for postpartum depression was limited to IV injections given by a healthcare provider that was only available in certain healthcare facilities.
This FDA’s approval follows a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry that found Zurzuvae to be successful. The research team ran a double-blind study involving 196 patients after giving birth. Over the span of 45 days, 98 participants received 50 mg a day of Zurzuvae, while the other 98 were given a placebo. By day 15, the Zurzuvae group recorded a significant improvement in depressive symptoms compared to the placebo group. The study did acknowledge that the Zurzuvae group did experience occasional adverse effects, including drowsiness, dizziness and sedation. But this was only seen in under 10 percent of individuals.
The FDA suggests that this new treatment represents a breakthrough development in successfully treating postpartum depression. “Having access to an oral medication will be a beneficial option for many of these women coping with extreme, and sometimes life-threatening, feelings,” Farchione added.
While anyone may experience postpartum depression, the APA identified why some may be at greater risk. It notes that those previously dealing with depression or anxiety are at greater risk of suffering from postpartum depression as are those who come from a family with a history of mental illness. Additionally, first-time mothers, those with financial problems or individuals giving birth to children with special needs are also at a heightened risk. Those in the heightened-risk groups are encouraged by the APA to talk openly about emerging feelings or join support groups to limit the threat and impact of postpartum depression.