The FDA has approved the first oral medication to treat postpartum depression, marking a major breakthrough for maternal mental health.
Like other kinds of depression, postpartum depression can overwhelm a new mother with sadness, feelings of inadequacy and fatigue. Treatment previously was available only through an IV administered in a clinical setting, which can be challenging to access and time consuming and inconvenient for busy families caring for a newborn.
A Paradigm Shift in Treating Postpartum Depression
Patients given the oral medication once daily for two weeks experienced reduced symptoms of postpartum depression. That effect lasted up to a month after the final dose. After two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials – the gold standard for clinical research – the treatment received FDA approval under the Fast Track designation.
But while medical breakthroughs are exciting, true progress in reducing postpartum depression in the United States requires more than just new treatments.
Screening, early intervention and access to care are crucial to transforming the lives of new mothers and whole families through better mental health support.
More Screening, Less Stigma
Improved screening for depression during pre- and postpartum care could help connect patients to treatment. It could also reduce stigma around mental health challenges for new mothers. Establishing a baseline for maternal mental health before the third trimester, for example, may help clinicians identify women who are struggling or at risk for postpartum depression.
Treating postpartum depression is important not only for mothers’ mental health, but also for infants’ development. The relationship between mother and newborn is critical for emotional bonding and long-term wellbeing. Leaving postpartum depression untreated raises the risk of developmental delays.
About Postpartum Depression
About 15% of new mothers experience symptoms of postpartum depression. Without treatment, that depression can escalate to life-threatening levels: suicide is the second leading cause of postpartum death.
Even with these well-known risks, surveys indicate one in eight women won’t even be asked about their emotional health during postpartum appointments. The resulting underdiagnosis and undertreatment can be addressed through an improved standard of care.