F.D.A. Approves First Drug for Postpartum Depression

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F.D.A. Approves First Drug for Postpartum Depression

Stephanie Hathaway, 33, a mother of two in South Windsor, Conn., had no history of depression. But after giving birth to her daughters — Hadley, 4, and Brenley, 2 — she began crying nonstop, and lost interest in doing things she loved, like cooking and socializing.

“I starting having intrusive thoughts that would not go away,” she recalled. “‘Your daughter deserves a better mom, and your husband deserves a better wife’ — that would just play on repeat.”

Ultimately Ms. Hathaway felt suicidal and feared she would harm herself if she stopped holding the baby. After Hadley’s birth, Ms. Hathaway, then living with her husband in China, spent two weeks under round-the-clock suicide watch at home.

The antidepressant she was prescribed, Zoloft, took three months, at increasing dosages, to eliminate her symptoms. Following Brenley’s birth, Zoloft didn’t help at all, Ms. Hathaway said, so about five months afterward, she volunteered for the brexanolone trial.

Between 12 and 18 hours after the infusion started, “I actually woke up from a nap and those intrusive thoughts that played on repeat, they were gone,” said Ms. Hathaway.

After leaving the hospital, “I felt like myself again,” Ms. Hathaway said. “I’m not going to say I was 100 percent, but I will say there was so much less of a gap to get there.”

She did not stop antidepressants altogether, but switched to a low dose of Effexor.

Dizziness and sleepiness were the most common side effects in the trials, each affecting about one in eight patients, including Ms. Hathaway. The most worrisome effect, the F.D.A. said, was fainting or temporary loss of consciousness, seen in five patients. All recovered within an hour and resumed getting the infusion.

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