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This New Postpartum Depression Pill Could Be a Gamechanger for New Moms

August 25, 2023

Bringing home a new baby should be an exciting time. But for the 10% of moms struggling with postpartum depression, it can be incredibly challenging.

Could the first-ever pill to treat postpartum depression be a game changer? We asked Art Guerra, director of advance practice at Hartford HealthCare’s Institute of Living and former director of its Peripartum Mood Disorders Program.

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Other treatment options take weeks to take effect.

Women with postpartum depression usually were prescribed standard depression medications. The issue was that they would take four to six weeks to take effect.

The FDA approved an intravenous medication called Brexanolone several years ago, but women had to spend three days in an infusion center.

“It could treat PPD faster but required three days of the mom’s life which was difficult to navigate,” says Guerra.

> Related: Beyond ‘Baby Blues’: IOL Program Identifies, Treats Perinatal Depression

But the new pill offers relief in three days.

The newly approved medication, called Zurzuvae, is a pill women take daily for two weeks.

“What’s notable is that symptom relief can occur in three days. To have quick relief and be at home is a game changer in treatment for moms,” Guerra says.

Zurzuvae adds to the very short list of options specifically for mothers suffering with PPD.

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Many moms with postpartum depression don’t get the treatment they need.

Even though one in 10 new moms struggle with postpartum depression, just 16% get treatment, Guerra estimates.

The reason? A lack of understanding about how serious postpartum depression can be.

“It’s different from the baby blues which happen in first couple of weeks to 80% of moms. With that, there are mood and sleep changes but it self resolves. PPD can last up to a year or longer, and can be very severe and have very negative outcomes and side effects,” Guerra notes.

When to see a doctor

Symptoms of PPD are similar to the “baby blues,” but more intensified. They include:

  • Sleep difficulties
  • Changes in mood
  • Changes in behavior
  • Depressed or irritable mood
  • Difficulty eating

“When it begins to affect mom’s functioning and her world view – feelings of hopelessness, thoughts of suicide – getting treatment immediately is necessary,” he says.