While in years gone by postpartum depression would have been dismissed as simply a case of the baby blues, it is finally being taken seriously - and news from the US is very promising indeed.
According to the Health Service Executive (HSE), 15 per cent of Irish women experiences postpartum depression after having a baby. It can be a crippling thing, affecting not only the new mum but her loved ones too.
In an interesting development, America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a benchmark for drug efficacy, has approved the first drug designed to treat postpartum depression. The news has been referred to as a significant step forward for women’s healthcare.
The drug brexanolone, which will be sold as Zulresso, was created by biotech firm Sage Therapeutics Inc. It contains a synthetic form of the hormone allopregnanolone, which is a derivative of progesterone. The hormone increases throughout pregnancy and then nosedives after birth, and this drop in levels could contribute to postpartum depression.
One of the most notable things about Zulresso is that it works quickly. Rather than requiring weeks to have an impact, like many drugs to treat depression, it can have an effect within 24 hours. Results are promising; in a study funded by the company, half of the new mums given the drug saw their postpartum depression end within two and a half days. And the effects were still in evidence 30 days after they received the drug.
While it is rightly being hailed as a breakthrough, it's not all good news. There are side effects, including dizziness and headaches, but the cost and time required are prohibitive, to say the least. The treatment is administered once, through IV over the course of 60 hours, and currently, treatment is priced at between $20k-$34k in the US (without insurance).
However it is a very promising move in the right direction. Even the fact that companies are looking to find solutions for postpartum depression is significant and now that this first hurdle has been overcome, it leads the way for others to follow.
You can learn more about postpartum depression here.