A DRUG SPECIFCALLY FOR POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION MAY BE APPROVED SOON
Doctors and scientists haven’t fully discovered why a woman’s brain changes during pregnancy that causes postpartum depression, but a new drug promises to make life easier until they do.
Ten to twenty percent of mothers experience postpartum depression, causing anxiety, sadness, and sometimes an inability to bond with their new baby up to six months after giving birth.
Quartz reports that medical experts still don’t know all the pieces of this complicated adjustment process, nor do they know exactly what it might due to a woman’s mental health—or whether some element of those changes mimics what happens in the body of someone with clinical depression. Because many of their symptoms are similar to that clinical depression, these women are often treated with standard antidepressants, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), even though PPD might be a completely different condition.
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But for the first time, a drug specifically tailored to treat postpartum depression is close to receiving approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In April of this year, Sage Pharmaceuticals, a Massachusetts-based biotech startup, submitted a new drug application for brexaolone after successful phase III clinical trials. Positive results from small phase II clinical trials spurred the FDA to give brexaolone a breakthrough therapy status, which speeds up the approval process; it’s expected to be completed by mid-December.
While depression medication on the market today extend the life of the serotonin in the brain,
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GABA basically calms down the mind. As Scientific American explains, when a woman is pregnant, their body receives large doses of chemicals, and one specifically that activates GABA receptors. However, these receptors are immediately shut down when pregnant, because pregnant women need less of the dampening neurotransmitter. In other words, the extra steroid can’t override the GABA-receptor shutdown, and as a result, excess GABA remains in the brain.
After birth, the body readjusts, and we stop making the steroid, with the next step are the GABA receptors starting up again. However, when they don’t start up again as
Should the FDA approve the drug, it would become the first treatment option specifically for women with postpartum depression and could be used later on to treat other forms of depression or mood disorders.
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