New FDA-approved drug gives hope to women suffering from postpartum depression

MISSION, Kan. -- Postpartum depression affects 1 in 7 women, but there haven't been any pharmaceutical fixes for the disorder until now.

While not perfect, a new drug just approved by the FDA does provide hope for women who are suffering.

Cynthia Schroer experienced postpartum depression after multiple pregnancies but didn't recognize what it was after giving birth to her first child.

"It was a game changer for me," Schroer said. "But I found myself just struggling to get through the day, just emotionally crying a lot, being super sensitive, and that continued after the usual expected baby blues. But I thought I would just power through it because I had this identity of myself as a strong woman, and indeed I did."

But with her second child, additional symptoms included auditory and visual hallucinations.

"I had moments of clarity where I could recognize that something wasn't right," she said.

Melissa Hoffman, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, said the only driving theory behind postpartum depression is that a sudden change in hormones can precipitate a disorder in women who may be already susceptible to that.

A drug marketed by the name Zulresso has just been approved by the FDA. It's a fast-acting antidepressant that could be a game-changer for women who suffer from the life-altering and sometimes life-threatening condition of postpartum depression.

"The drug is an indigenous IV infusion of a hormone that a woman naturally produces in pregnancy that rises very high in pregnancy and then falls very quickly after the baby is born," Hoffman explained.

Zulresso is expensive. Almost $7,500 a vial and can cost $34,000 over the course of treatments. It's unclear if it will be covered by insurance.

"I have some mixed thoughts about it," said Meeka Centimano, a clinical social worker. "I am very excited about us getting something for women. I am concerned about accessibility. I am concerned about practicality."

There are serious risks to the drug, so it must be administered and monitored by a health care provider.

Where infusions will take place, how it will be billed and other logistical issues have not been worked out.

"This isn't necessarily the end all be all. But it is certainly new and exciting that there is something that needs to target the brain in a way that is really efficient. So definitely excited but really curious to know how it is going to play out," Centimano said.

Regardless of drugs or no drugs, the most important thing for people with PPD is early intervention.

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