Everything You Need To Know About The First Ever FDA-Approved Postpartum Depression Oral Medication

On December 14, 2023, the first-ever FDA-approved postpartum depression pill was made available to patients.

By Anna Powers3 min read
Pexels/Karolina Grabowska

If you’re a new mother or know a new mother suffering from postpartum depression, also called postnatal depression, read on to learn how this new drug may help.

*The following article will discuss potentially triggering topics such as depression.* 

What Is Postpartum Depression?

While it’s exciting to have a newborn, it can also be overwhelming, anxiety-provoking, tiresome, and challenging. You may be familiar with the term “baby blues,” which affects up to 80% of new mothers and is characterized by an influx of emotions, both good and bad, following childbirth. The baby blues are extremely common and are a result of the large hormone fluctuations that a woman’s body undergoes throughout pregnancy and delivery. According to the Mayo Clinic, the baby blues tend to dissipate after about two weeks once hormone levels have balanced. But for some unlucky women, baby blues can actually turn into a much more serious condition called postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression, or PPD for short, is a form of depression that occurs post-childbirth. While many mothers experience the baby blues, only one in seven (about 15%) of new mothers experience PPD. Postpartum depression is much more severe than a fleeting feeling of worry or emptiness. According to the Mayo Clinic, women with PPD often experience mood swings, crying spells, anxiety, trouble sleeping, reduced concentration, appetite issues, and more. In severe cases, new mothers with PPD can also have trouble bonding with their baby, withdraw from family and friends, feel a sense of hopelessness or worthlessness, and even experience destructive thoughts about harming herself or her baby. 

In severe cases, new mothers with PPD can have trouble bonding with their baby.

PPD can severely hinder the mother-infant bond and can even seep into impacting other family members, such as other children or fathers. For this reason and many others, it’s important to seek help for PPD if your symptoms get in the way of everyday tasks such as taking care of yourself or your baby. Like major depressive disorder and other mental health disorders, there is no set time for how long PPD lasts, as each woman will have her own experience. However, after finding the right treatment, PPD can be managed and even subside completely after a few weeks or months.

What Is Zurzuvae? 

Zurzuvae, manufactured by Biogen and Sage Therapeutics, is the brand name of the first and only oral medication that is FDA-approved to treat PPD. Zurzuvae has one active ingredient called zuranolone and is prescribed in either 20, 25, or 30 milligram dosages for a 14-day course. It can be used to treat PPD alone, or in more severe cases, alongside an antidepressant.

Zurzuvae works by increasing the GABA-A receptor function, which ultimately increases the efficacy of one of the brain’s most critical neurotransmitter systems. When the GABA-A system works normally, mood will improve, causing feelings that mimic those of an antidepressant like Lexapro or Zoloft. In clinical trials, patients taking Zurzuvae exhibited significantly increased mood at 15 days compared to the placebo group. Some patients claim to have noticed a difference as soon as three days after starting Zurzuvae.

However, unlike antidepressants, patients' depressive symptoms should not come back upon stopping the medication. In fact, in its clinical trials, the Zurzuvae treatment effect was sustained over four weeks past the date of the last dosage. Zurzuvae is designed to be taken for two weeks maximum, whereas many antidepressants become long-term, even lifelong, solutions to coping with depression. If you’re struggling with PPD or know a new mother who is, visit for more information about safety and side effects.

Zurzuvae hitting the market is undoubtedly a revolutionary milestone in women’s health, as it is the only oral medication available for PPD and one of the few medications specifically created to treat PPD in general. Other treatment options include biologics, like brexanolone (brand name Zulresso), which are administered by IV or injection and cannot be done at home. While still effective, biologics are not as convenient or safe as simply taking a pill.

It would be remiss not to mention the reality that, like all pharmaceutical products, Zurzuvae has a list of potential side effects ranging from mild to extreme. Zurzuvae’s most common side effects include drowsiness, fatigue, common cold, low energy, upset stomach, and dizziness, but it could cause more serious side effects like panic attacks, aggressive mood, or even thoughts of suicide. Every medication has its downsides, so talk with your doctor to determine if Zurzuvae’s benefits outweigh its risks and whether it could be right for you.

Natural Ways To Treat Postpartum Depression

Pharmaceuticals are not for everyone. So if you’re a new mother struggling with PPD or similar symptoms, but you’re wary of Zurzuvae, natural remedies may be what you need. Always consult your healthcare practitioner and remember that you’re not alone in the way that you feel. 

During and after pregnancy, a woman’s omega-3 fatty acid repository becomes depleted, which can lead to symptoms of PPD.

Recent research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids can play a critical role in brain chemistry when it comes to depression. During and after pregnancy, a woman’s omega-3 repository becomes depleted, which can lead to symptoms of PPD. For this reason, it’s critical that new mothers replenish omega-3s regularly after giving birth. Try taking supplements or eating foods rich in omega-3s, like flax seeds, chia seeds, or salmon. 

Many women claim that consuming their placenta, either raw or in capsule form, warded off postpartum depression, as well as increased their energy and milk supply. This option would need to be planned for before birth to preserve your placenta, however. 

Other natural treatment options include practicing more attentive and frequent self-care, seeing a mental health professional to talk through your symptoms, setting goals, spending time with loved ones, and staying active. Any and all health recommendations for combatting a major depressive episode would apply to PPD as well. Try to remind yourself that the way you’re feeling is normal and, for most women, temporary. 

Closing Thoughts

This is by no means an endorsement of Zurzuvae or a suggestion to rely solely on the pharmaceutical industry to solve your mental or physical health problems. Remember that antidepressants are never to be viewed as a cure-all medication. If you’re prescribed Zurzuvae or a similar pharmaceutical antidepressant, it’s imperative to supplement your treatment plan with lifestyle and mentality changes. It’s never enough to take an antidepressant and expect your mood to instantly become better. If you’re struggling with PPD or baby blues, talk to your practitioner and come up with a treatment plan together.

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