Although having a baby is often seen as a happy time, many parents struggle with postpartum depression (PPD) following birth, and having depression prior to pregnancy is a risk factor for development of PPD. The prevalence varies by study but ranges from 10-15%. PPD includes symptoms such as depressed mood, guilt, and loss of interest. PPD differs from postpartum blues which typically involves milder symptoms and resolves in less than 2 weeks. PPD is an important topic to address because it can have adverse effects on both the parent and the infant, including impaired maternal-infant bonding.
Until now, the main pharmacologic treatments for PPD were antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications, which can take some time to take effect. The FDA recently approved Zurzuvae (zuranolone), the first oral medication indicated for PPD in adults which has a different mechanism of action. In two of the studies reviewed, patients received either 40 mg or 50 mg of Zurzuvae daily for 14 days, and they were compared to patients who received a placebo pill daily for 14 days. They were given the Hamilton depression rating scale (HAMD-17) on day 15. The patients who received Zurzuvae showed more improvement in their depression symptoms compared to the patients who received the placebo pills. This effect was noted to last when looked at four weeks after the last dose of Zurzuvae.
The FDA approval of Zurzuvae is significant, given that it is the first medication in pill form specifically indicated for PPD and it can take effect quicker than previous treatments. This approval may help to break down the stigma associated with PPD. As with other mental health conditions, pharmacologic therapy should be combined with psychotherapy when applicable. It remains important to discuss with a provider on how to take this medication and whether it would be a safe choice for you.