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Postnatal depression: US approves the first postpartum depression pill

A new pill that’s proven to significantly reduce depressive symptoms postpartum has been approved for use in the United States.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Zurzuvae (zuranolone) as a once-daily pill taken for two weeks to treat postpartum depression (PPD), and it will hit the American market later this year.

“Postpartum depression is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition in which women experience sadness, guilt, worthlessness – even, in severe cases, thoughts of harming themselves or their child,” Tiffany R. Farchione, MD, director of the Division of Psychiatry in the FDA’s Centre for Drug Evaluation and Research said in a statement.

“Postpartum depression can disrupt the maternal-infant bond, it can also have consequences for the child’s physical and emotional development,” so “having access to an oral medication will be a beneficial option for many of these women coping with extreme, and sometimes life-threatening, feelings.”

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Participants in a trial showed an improved mental state within three days of beginning their course of Zurzuvae.

This was demonstrated in two randomised, placebo-controlled studies using women who showed symptoms of PDD in the third trimester or within four weeks post-delivery.

In the first study, the women either received 50mg of Zurzuvae or a placebo once daily in the evening for 14 days.

In the second study, the women received another product using 40mg of zuranolone or a placebo once daily in the evening for 14 days.  

“Patients in both studies were monitored for at least four weeks after the 14-day treatment,” the FDA said. “Patients in the Zurzuvae groups showed significantly more improvement in their symptoms compared to those in the placebo groups.”

What’s more, the treatment’s effectiveness was maintained four weeks after the last dose of Zurzuvae.

Zurzuvae’s side effects

According to the FDA, users might suffer from:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • The common cold
  • Urinary tract infection

More worryingly, the FDA noted that Zurzuvae may cause suicidal thoughts and behaviour, and even foetal harm.

According to the Black Dog Institute, one in seven Australian women experience postpartum depression, or postnatal depression as it’s commonly known. For around 40 per cent of those suffering, their symptoms begin during pregnancy.

Symptoms of postpartum depression

According to Black Dog Institute, sufferers may experience:

  • Loss of enjoyment in usual activities
  • Loss of self-esteem and confidence
  • Loss of appetite and weight, or weight gain
  • Difficulty with sleep (irrespective of the baby’s routine)
  • A sense of hopelessness and of being a failure
  • A wish not to be alive
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideas
  • Panic attacks
  • Loss of libido
  • Fears for the baby’s or partner’s safety or wellbeing.

If you or someone you know needs help, call Lifeline on 131 114, Beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. In an emergency, call 000. For a correct treatment plan, book an appointment with your GP.

For more information on mental health and treatment options, visit Beyond BlueBlack Dog InstituteLifelineRUOK or Headspace.

Read related topics:Mental Health

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