I Took the New Postpartum Depression Pill—Here’s What Happened

Updated: Apr. 01, 2024

A new mom shares how the recently approved two-week postpartum depression drug was a game-changer to combat a notably common condition during a tender phase of life.

The introduction of zuranolone by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in August 2023 marked a pivotal moment in the treatment of postpartum depression (PPD). Distinct from the mild and brief “baby blues” that many new child-bearers experience, experts say postpartum depression involves deeper, persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, fatigue, irritability and more that can significantly impact a parent’s ability to care for herself and her newborn.

With one in eight or almost 13%, of new mothers reporting symptoms of postpartum depression according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—and acknowledging that this number is likely higher due to cases that go unreported—zuranolone’s approval introduces an essential option for those seeking relief.

Unlike traditional interventions that rely on psychotherapy and conventional antidepressants, zuranolone promises a faster response, easing symptoms in as little as three days with a treatment course of only two weeks.

Katrina Furey, MD, a psychiatrist from Yale, points out the significance of zuranolone amidst the broader context of maternal mental health, noting that mental health issues are the most prevalent complications following childbirth, even more than conditions related to gestational diabetes or hypertension.

This innovative medication addresses postpartum depression at its source as it is a synthetic form of allopregnanolone, a crucial neurosteroid for mood balance that is often found in low levels in women with postpartum depression. Allopregnanolone specifically targets malfunctioning GABA-A receptors in the brain, which are key to managing mood and behavior that malfunction without sufficient allopregnanolone, leading to symptoms. Along with healthcare providers’ growing dedication to screening for postpartum depression, this treatment marks a major advance in providing new mothers with prompt and effective care.

If you find yourself experiencing any of the following signs of postpartum depression—

  • An increase in tears or a feeling of constant sadness.
  • Growing irritability or feelings of anger.

  • Withdrawing from loved ones and friends.

  • Feeling disconnected or indifferent towards your baby.

  • Worrying about harming your child.

  • Continuous self-doubt about your ability to be a good mother or concerns over not caring properly for your baby.

—remember, you’re not navigating this alone. Support and resources are readily available. Don’t hesitate to seek assistance by talking to your healthcare provider.

Ahead, we share the personal story of Samantha M., a 31-year-old from New York who navigated through the challenges of postpartum depression. As a wife and mother of three, participating in a phase three clinical trial—the final phase before market approval—for zuranolone was a turning point for her and her family.

Taking the new postpartum depression drug

By Samantha M., as told to Dr. Patricia Varacallo, DO

After the birth of my third child, I found myself in a place I had never anticipated. I’ve experienced low moments in the past, but never to the point of receiving a diagnosis. While I was familiar with the term “postpartum depression,” facing it was an entirely different story. Instead of the joy and bonding after childbirth—a feeling I fondly remembered with my first two—I was engulfed by an overwhelming sadness and a deep sense of detachment, affecting not just my relationship with my newborn but also with my husband. My mind was a tangled mess of confusion, guilt, and a yearning for the normalcy I once knew, leaving me to wonder: Why can’t I just enjoy these moments?

It never got to the point of harming myself, but I felt like I was just existing.

No. Motivation. whatsoever.

I distinctly remember my two little ones and my husband joking around the dinner table and I just couldn’t feel the same happiness they were feeling…and that was not like me.

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Seeking help for postpartum depression

A black woman lies in bed. White linens. Dream. Cheerful morning. Good dream. Soft bed. Orthopedic mattress.Maryna Terletska/Getty Images

I remember the turning point came about two months postpartum early spring 2021, during a conversation with one of my best friends from college who is now working in women’s health. She mentioned a clinical trial for a new postpartum depression drug called zuranolone.

Having discussed the standard postpartum depression treatment options with my OBGYN six weeks after giving birth, I was all too aware of the lengthy wait—often weeks or months—for traditional antidepressants to possibly start working. Then there was brexanolone, the first FDA-approved drug specifically for postpartum depression, requiring a 60-hour continuous IV infusion. It was good to know that this existed if the circumstances warranted it, but in my case the thought of being hospitalized and away from my family for three nights made me hesitant.

I learned zuranolone was different—it was a daily pill taken for just two weeks. No hospital stays, no IVs.

My husband and I had a thorough conversation. I reflected on the requirement to discontinue breastfeeding for the clinical trial, since zuranolone could be present in breast milk and its effects on a baby are unknown. I struggled with this decision, as I didn’t want to lose another precious bonding opportunity with my baby, but I knew my condition was getting worse. I chose to enroll.

The catch with many clinical trials is the uncertainty of possibly being given a placebo (a substance with no therapeutic effect, used as a control in testing new drugs) instead of the real drug. Despite this risk of not getting the actual medication, I still believed the chance to potentially improve my condition was too significant to pass up.

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I took the new postpartum depression drug

Zurualonone may not be right for every patient, and you’ll need to discuss it with your doctor. But when I tell you that I started to feel a little bit better after taking just the second dose of the drug…I am not exaggerating. Right away, I felt something shift and I started to feel more like myself than I had in months. I dared to hope it was the zuranolone working.

For 14 days, I took the 50-milligram dose, each day feeling progressively more grounded, more connected to my life and the people in it. My husband noticed the change, too. We began to reconnect in ways that had felt lost for some time.

I’d been cautioned about possible side effects, like fatigue, digestive issues, cold symptoms, and increased risk of urinary tract infections. I experienced only some slight drowsiness in the beginning, but it never hindered my daily activities.

Following the treatment, I had check-ins at approximately one month and then again at six weeks, and the positive feelings persisted—I still felt closer to my former self than I had in a long time. The heavy fog of depression had lifted, allowing me to fully engage with my family and enjoy the precious moments with my newborn that I had been missing.

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family of four in bed together. Two kids, a mom and a pregnant momVesnaandjic/getty images

Life after taking the postpartum depression pill

Today, a little more than three years since participating in the trial, the drug is now available to other new moms and my own sense of wellbeing remains intact.

For any woman, life is not without its challenges—juggling the responsibilities of being a mother to three and a wife certainly has its moments—but genuinely, I continue to feel good. To maintain my balance, I’ve discovered that therapy is beneficial for me, and I also made a commitment to myself to manage my mental health by practicing yoga twice a week.

Sharing my personal experience isn’t easy, (and believe me, I was hesitant to do so) but I do it in the hope that it might help someone else feeling lost with postpartum depression. The path through is different for everyone, but options and support are available.

Whether it’s traditional treatments or new ones like zuranolone, the first step is reaching out for help. For me, that step was a conversation with a friend that led to a clinical trial and a medication that changed my life. For someone else, it just might be this story that makes all the difference.

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