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FDA Approves First Postpartum Depression Drug

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A drug that treats postpartum depression has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, making it the first of its kind.

The drug is called Zulresso and it is manufactured by the company Sage. It will be administered intravenously to adult women with postpartum depression through a special program. This means it will be given by a health care provider from a certified health care facility.

Dr. Tiffany Farchione, the acting director of the FDA's Division of Psychiatry Products under the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said that there are serious concerns about the drug. Thus, it was approved with a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy stamp, which is the strictest regulation.

As a result, the drug is not available for use at home without supervision by a doctor. It will be given to patients through the Zulresso REMS program within 60 hours.

Felipe Jain, one of the panel members who voted on the approval of the drug, believes Zulresso will be a game changer in treating postpartum depression.

"This is what hope looks like," said Jain.

Postpartum Depression Is A Serious Condition

One in every nine women in the United States is afflicted with postpartum depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The illness, which is also known as "baby blues," is a life-threatening and debilitating major depressive disorder that occurs after childbirth, with potential symptoms occurring even during pregnancy.

Just like other forms of depression, the symptoms of postpartum depression include loss of interest in activities, sadness, and anhedonia or a decreased ability to feel pleasure.

Other complications that could arise are feelings of guilt and worthlessness, cognitive impairment, or thoughts of suicide.

Dr. Farchione explained that postpartum depression is so severe that it does not only affect the mother. It also affects the relationship between the mother and her baby.

"Women may experience thoughts about harming themselves or harming their child," said Dr. Farchione.

How The Drug Will Be Administered

The FDA said the patient should be enrolled in the treatment program beforehand to receive the drug. Due to the potential risks, the patient must be monitored for sudden loss of consciousness and excessive sedation. Their oxygen levels must also be constantly monitored.

Patients are advised not to drive, use machinery, or perform any other tasks that need serious concentration until drowsiness goes away.

The most common side effects revealed in the study that proved the drug's efficacy are dry mouth, sleepiness, flushing, and loss of consciousness.

Current treatments for postpartum depression include psychotherapy, medication, and shock therapy. However, some believe these treatments fall short of effectively addressing the condition and have not been approved in treating it specifically.

Screening Depression In New Mothers

Studies reveal that most women are afraid of getting screened for depression during pregnancy because of the stigma attached to the condition. To encourage mothers, an updated policy of the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that women should be screened for signs of depression at least once during pregnancy.

Dr. Barbara Robles, a psychiatrist, recommends that both new mothers and fathers make time to check in with each other and lower their expectations to help ease each other's worries.

Nick Koch Weiler | Flickr

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