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Newly approved pill helps women with postpartum depression: HealthLink

A western Washington perinatal psychiatrist weighs in on the benefits.

SEATTLE — Having a baby is life-changing and for some new moms, it can bring severe depression. Research from the Centers for Disease Control shows 1 in 8 women experience postpartum depression in the U.S.

Since 2019, women experiencing postpartum depression have been able to get treatment through an intravenous injection that is administered in hospital settings. It was the first treatment of its kind to specifically target postpartum depression.

In August, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new medication taken orally that makes it easier for new moms to receive medication at home.

The pill is called Zuranolone, with the brand name Zurzuvae.

"It's a neuroactive steroid, which means it's a steroid, a hormone that acts on the brain," said Dr. Veronika Zantop.

Zantop is a perinatal psychiatrist for Swedish Medical Center. She points out that the existing treatment for severe postpartum depression requires a 60-hour infusion. But the newly approved pill can be taken at home daily, for two weeks.

Zantop said one of the benefits of the pill is how quickly it can work.

"It starts to be effective after about day three," Zantop said.

Zantop said the pill will be another option for women experiencing postpartum depression, which she said deserves serious attention.

"There's a lot of emphasis on diabetes, or preeclampsia or high blood pressure, and depression is actually the most common complication, and it can happen in pregnancy or in postpartum," Zantop said.

The ripple effects of postpartum depression can be far-reaching.

"Because it can affect the mother's enjoyment of the postpartum and bonding with the baby, it can have an impact on the baby's neural behavioral development into the future," Zantop said.

Zantop adds women experiencing postpartum depression should feel assured they're not alone.

"Patient to patient, person to person, it's really devastating to see women suffer from this, and it has such wide-reaching implications that I'm really happy that there's now more of a focus on this particular period in women's lives," Zantop said.

Other common antidepressant medications, like Zoloft and Lexapro, can be prescribed to treat postpartum depression, but Zantop said their effectiveness can vary and they can take longer to take effect.

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