New drug gives hope to moms with postpartum depression

Posted October 23, 2018 6:08 a.m. EDT
Updated October 23, 2018 8:44 a.m. EDT

The birth of a new baby doesn't always come with the expected joy. Postpartum depression is one of the most common complications of childbirth, affecting one in eight new mothers.

Standard prescription treatments can take more than a month to work, but a new study drug shows great promise.

Born eight weeks early, preemie Connor Fogleman required six weeks of intensive care. His dramatic arrival caught his mom, Rachel Fogleman, off-guard.

"When he came home, I noticed I was starting to get anxious feeling, especially in the mornings," said Fogleman. Her feelings went beyond simple "baby blues," which typically last no more than a few weeks.

"I just started to not be able to function at all," said Fogleman.

Doctors diagnosed her with postpartum depression and prescribed Zoloft, an anti-depressant medication. It took up to 12 weeks before she felt normal again.

Waiting for a drug like that to take effect can be difficult and risky, and symptoms like sadness and anxiety can range from mild to severe.

"At worse, women may have suicidal thoughts," said Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, a psychiatrist who helped lead a multi-center phase 3 trial of a new drug at UNC's inpatient perinatal psychiatry unit.

Participants received the intravenous drug Brexanalone over a 60 hour period, and results came fast. "So women start seeing a positive treatment response within 24 hours of treatment," said Dr. Meltzer-Brody. "This has been very exciting and promising in the field."

Fogleman hopes it will help other women avoid the inner turmoil she felt as a new mother. "I think it's absolutely wonderful," she said. "This is something that shouldn't be taboo. If you need help, ask for help."

The new IV drug is currently under evaluation by the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Meltzer-Brody says a decision on Brexanolone is expected by the end of December.