CHICAGO — One in 6 to 7 women suffer with the condition often undiagnosed and under treated. Now doctors and mothers weigh in on a first-of-its-kind medication born to quickly decrease the debilitating symptoms of postpartum depression.
“New motherhood is dark for sure,” mother of two Rose Boyle said. “You are sleep deprived and you’re like ‘Oh do I know what I’m doing?’”
“You’re dealing with no sleep, your hormones are all over the place,” Caitlin O’Shea said. “You’re trying to figure out what is typical and what is atypical.”
NorthShore Swedish Hospital OB-GYN Dr Stacy Brown says the symptoms of postpartum depression can be subtle.
“’Baby Blues,’ that postpartum blues, is typical,” she said. “It’s a huge change in your life and having some emotional reaction to that is normal and expected. But more than anything, it puts a woman’s health at risk — for their joy, their well-being and ultimately an increased risk of suicidal ideation and death.”
Mother of three Andrea Hartman wants every woman to know it’s common.
“It shouldn’t be embarrassing, that’s why I’m not ashamed that I suffered it with my first daughter,” she said. “You just feel really down and helpless.”
Hartman started taking an anti-depressant to help treat her symptoms.
“I’m still on it five years later,” she said.
“We set the expectations that after about a month, even three months, to feel the effect, which is a long time in a newborn’s life,” Brown said.
That’s where Zuranolone differs. The FDA approved the faster-acting drug in early August.
“The medication is prescribed for a short duration of time, so it’s two weeks every night,” Brown said. “And when they looked at the study of about 1000 women, they saw a statistically significant improvement in their moods within that two-week period.”
The first oral medication of its kind works on what are called GABA-A receptors in the brain.
Dr Joshua Eloge is a Rush psychiatrist.
“There is a hormone called allopregnanolone that increases during pregnancy but then pretty dramatically drops off immediately after childbirth,” he said. “And Zuranolone, this drug acts a lot like allopregnanolone in the body and so it kind of protects from that drop. And we think that’s why it’s particularly effective in postpartum depression.”
“This isn’t completely ameliorating someone’s postpartum depression, but it’s helping treat them and get them out of this situation where they are disconnected and helps reset closer to normal,” Brown said.
Still, there are some unknowns when it comes to breast feeding.
“(There is) Not a lot of specific data on lactation safety,” Brown said. “Right now, thought is patient will pump for two weeks and that may pose a barrier.”
While many of the moms WGN spoke with expressed excitement, some also say proper follow-up is critical.
“To check in on the women the mom (with) ‘Hey is this helping? How are you feeling today?’” Jen Ledesma said. “People coming alongside you to be there and support you during that sacred time.”
There are driving restrictions when taking the medication and questions about access and affordability — doctors don’t know the cost or whether the new drug will be covered by insurance are both possible barriers when it comes to helping patients.
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