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New FDA-approved drug brings hope for postpartum depression

Article-New FDA-approved drug brings hope for postpartum depression

CanvaPro Postpartum depression
Zuranolone can give patients more control over mental health during the recovery phase.

Postpartum depression (PPD), a formidable mental health challenge affecting numerous new mothers, has gained renewed attention with the recent approval of a groundbreaking treatment by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

This approval not only sheds light on the significance of PPD but also highlights the evolving landscape of mental healthcare for new mothers. PPD, categorised as a form of major depressive disorder (MDD), typically emerges within six weeks to six months following childbirth.

UAE-based specialist psychiatrist Dr. Namdev Chawan underscores the gravity of PPD, stating that it is a severe mental health issue affecting three to six per cent of women, as outlined in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

The constellation of symptoms linked with PPD mirrors those of MDD and encompasses a range of distressing experiences. These include a persistent depressed mood, a diminished sense of pleasure or interest in activities, disturbances in sleep and appetite, pervasive fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, diminished concentration, irritability, and even thoughts of suicide.

Related: Top ER strategies for mental health emergencies

In addition to these well-documented symptoms, individuals grappling with PPD might also encounter episodes of frequent crying, heightened anxiety or panic attacks, unexplained physical aches, sudden intense mood swings, and even negative emotions directed at the infant. Dr. Chawan adds: “PPD is one of the most common and disabling complications of childbearing, often underdiagnosed and undertreated.”

Over time, a range of psychosocial and pharmacological interventions have been implemented in the pursuit of alleviating PPD's impact. However, the journey to effectively addressing PPD has been fraught with challenges. A lack of awareness often leads to women and their caregivers failing to seek the necessary help. Moreover, concerns about the safety of medications, especially when breastfeeding, have cast a shadow over their feasibility as viable treatment options.

Related: What global healthcare systems can learn from Denmark's postpartum care plan

The recent milestone achieved with the FDA’s approval of zuranolone, an oral neuroactive steroid, represents a significant breakthrough in the realm of PPD treatment. This novel medication acts as a γ-Aminobutyric acid type A (GABA-A) receptor-positive allosteric modulator and is administered orally. Notably, zuranolone stands apart due to its simplified dosing regimen, which entails taking the medication once a day for a span of two weeks.

Dr. Namdev Chawan, Aster Clinic.jpeg
Dr. Namdev Chawan, Specialist Psychiatrist, Aster Clinic Al Qusais

Dr. Chawan highlights the potential impact, noting, “The simplicity of zuranolone’s dosing schedule may enhance patient compliance and foster more effective and timely PPD management.”

While the FDA’s approval of zuranolone is indeed a pivotal moment, Dr. Chawan underscores the need for caution and further research. He emphasises that additional clinical studies are imperative to validate the drug’s efficacy and safety profile. Importantly, a black box warning has been associated with the medication due to potential driving impairment linked to its central nervous system (CNS) depressant effects.

The expert also adds that the FDA’s green light for zuranolone heralds a promising era in the care and management of women confronting PPD.

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