Beyonce battled with it. So did Chrissy Teigen and Drew Barrymore. Many celebrity moms have recently made headlines sharing their experiences with postpartum depression, which afflicts one out nine women, according to the CDC. Now there is finally some hope: The first drug specifically targeted at treating postpartum depression in new mothers has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
“Postpartum depression is a serious condition that, when severe, can be life-threatening. Women may experience thoughts about harming themselves or harming their child,” says Tiffany Farchione, the acting director of the Division of Psychiatry Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research in the agency’s report.
Brexanolone, which is sold as Zulresso, is delivered as a continuous intravenous infusion over the course of 60 hours, the FDA says. The drug works quickly — within two days — and is estimated to cost $20,000 or more. The cost and length of treatment may initially put it out of reach for most women but experts say it is still a huge step in treating a condition that has long been relegated to the shadows.
“The major thing is, of course, the rapid effect,” said Dr. Margaret Spinelli, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, who treats and studies postpartum depression and was not involved in the research on brexanolone, as the Times reported. “That it’s the first that’s designed for postpartum depression is important and means it will probably be a segue to design other medications for postpartum depression to be administered in an easier way.”
PPD is a major depressive episode that occurs following childbirth, although symptoms can start during pregnancy, says the CDC. It is characterized by sadness and loss of interest in activities that used to bring joy. Other symptoms are cognitive impairment, feelings of worthlessness and guilt, or suicidal ideation.
All of the attention being paid to PPD may ensure that women will be less likely to suffer in silence, ashamed to admit that the miracle of life can have a dark side.
Teigen, who is married to singer John Legend, has often noted how hard it is for a model to cope with the fact that life is less than picture perfect, as USA Today noted: “It can happen to anybody and I don’t want people who have it to feel embarrassed or to feel alone.”
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