New Pill may Help Black Women with Postpartum Depression

Around one in seven women can develop postpartum depression (PPD), according to the National Institues of Health. However, a new pill called zuranolone approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration may have the ability to ease severe postpartum depression and help millions of women regain their emotional state following childbirth.


According to the FDA, if the pill is taken once a day for two weeks, zuranolone (Zurzuvae) shows “rapid, significant and sustained” reductions in depressive symptoms when compared to a placebo, according to a recent study of nearly 200 women.

The pills’ effects can be evident almost instantly. Scientists noticed improvements in as few as three days and improvements were still evident 28 and 45 days later. That’s compared to the many weeks it typically takes for standard antidepressants to start taking full effect.

“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. And, because postpartum depression can disrupt the maternal-infant bond, it can also have consequences for the child’s physical and emotional development,” Dr. Tiffany Farchione, director of the Division of Psychiatry in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in an agency statement. “Having access to an oral medication will be a beneficial option for many of these women coping with extreme, and sometimes life-threatening, feelings.”

While one in seven women in the United States develops postpartum depression, studies indicate Black women often suffer in silence and do not get the necessary treatment for postpartum depression. In fact, a study by NIH revealed racial and ethnic disparities in the initiation and continuation of postpartum depression care are so troubling it warrants clinical and policy attention.

“Women report severe sadness or loss of interest in pleasurable activities and relationships, have significant guilt, often about not being a good enough mother or partner, low energy, poor concentration and indecisiveness, loss of appetite and irritability,” said Dr. Kristina Deligiannidis, who is the lead author of the recent study. 

Many women have reported feeling overwhelmed and anxious after giving birth, and are paticuarly concerned about the health of their babies. Some women may start to believe that their family would be better off if they were dead, Deligiannidis added. As a professor at the Institute of Behavioral Science at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y, Deligiannidis adds that, “standard of care antidepressants, while effective, take a few weeks to start to show benefit, with maximal benefit often not seen.”

Experts warn that untreated postpartum depression can have severe impacts on the health and well-being of the affected woman and her family, including long-term consequences for the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral development of her child, according to NIH.

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