General Health

Finally, Doctors Create Drug to Treat Postnatal Depression

Postnatal depression. It’s something countless mums struggle with, often alone, in silence, behind closed doors.

It brings shame, guilt, confusion and seclusion to around one in five  new mums. And it’s something that is finally getting the medical attention it deserves.

Researchers in America are developing a drug to specifically target postnatal depression. This is a medical first and one that can’t come soon enough.

Groundbreaking injection to help new mums with severe PND

Surprisingly enough, there is not a single drug on the market that is designed specifically to treat postnatal depression or PND. Most mums who experience postnatal depression are medicated with SSRI inhibitors (anti-depressants). These can be effective in treating all types of depression as they up the levels of serotonin in your body.

But they also come with a slew of unwanted side effects, including anxiety, weight changes and insomnia. Plus, they can affect your breast milk.

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However, the main issue with anti-depressants is that they can take weeks to work. And, for new mums, waiting a month or six weeks to get better is hard. Really, really hard.

A better drug is on the way

Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, a perinatal psychiatrist who runs the University of North Carolina’s Center for Women’s Mood Disorders, reveals that the new postnatal depression drug could make a significant difference in postpartum care, especially in woman who are severely struggling.

”What’s most difficult for me is when I see someone come in who’s really suffering and is quite sick,” Dr Meltzer-Brody says. “And it’s going to take four to six weeks to get better.”

Meltzer-Brody is part of the team trialling the new postnatal depression drug, known as brexanolone. Developed by Sage Therapeutics, the drug is a first-of-its-kind formulation of a neurosteroid. It is delivered through an injection and is said to work almost right away.

The drug has completed two trials with success and developers are waiting on the third trial results before the next step.

“Within 24 hours, we were seeing dramatic responses that then were sustained over a 30-day follow-up period.

The drug is said to work by targeting the brain’s GABAA receptors with an infusion of brexanolone. It will be designed for those with severe postnatal depression.

“The first patient we infused was someone who was extremely depressed, had lost 20 pounds in a short period of time postpartum because she wasn’t eating at all, was very sad, didn’t want to interact with the baby — didn’t want to interact with anyone — and the family was extremely concerned,” Meltzer-Brody said. “Twenty four hours after the infusion, she came out of her room, was smiling, ate her whole lunch, was talking to everyone. It was dramatic.”

The company has signalled its intention to file a new drug application with the Food and Drug Administration in 2018 which is the final step in the lengthy approval process.

What causes postnatal depression?

One of the challenges with treating postnatal depression is that the full reasons as to why some women get it and others don’t are still unknown. This is also the case for new dads, who can also experience PND.

“During pregnancy, both oestrogen and progesterone, the two major female hormones, go sky high. That’s normal. At the time of delivery, they fall precipitously. That happens in all women.” Dr Meltzer-Brody explains. “There’s been a theory that some women are deferentially sensitive to that rise and fall.”

Women who are sensitive to this fall may experience post natal depression. However, there are other factors at play too, including intense fatigue, financial and emotional factors and added stress.

Regardless of what is causing PND, this new postnatal depression drug could help countless parents overcome this struggle, which has been going on for far too long. Fingers crossed the new drug will be approved and available very soon!

For more information on PND, please see our tips on tackling postnatal depression and anxiety. 

Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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