Postpartum Depression Resources
For hundreds of thousands of women, the excitement of having a new baby is marred by overwhelming feelings of anxiety and helplessness caused by postpartum depression. The condition robs new parents of happiness during what they rightly expect to be a joyous time.
Sadly, many women experiencing postpartum depression will not receive a medical diagnosis or treatment. Often new moms or their health care providers don’t know the signs of postpartum depression—or don’t recognize them. And most hospitals do not yet have screening policies in place.
In some cases, when new moms know something isn’t right, they feel embarrassed, ashamed or too overwhelmed by the responsibilities of new motherhood to take time to get or ask for help. This is not healthy for them or their babies, which is why it’s important to know the facts about postpartum depression.
A newly approved medication for postpartum depression could mark a major advance for new mothers – if they can access the drug.
Called brexanolone, the drug is the first ever that’s specifically approved to treat postpartum depression. The condition affects one in nine women, who experience feelings of worthlessness and disconnect from their new baby. The condition can be easy to miss, largely because symptoms of new motherhood such as sleeplessness and fatigue can also be symptoms of postpartum depression. Untreated, the condition can undermine a mother’s ability to bond and care for her baby or herself. In extreme cases, it can lead to suicide.
Clinical trials of the new drug showed exciting – and near-instantaneous – results, with women improving as quickly as 48 hours after treatment. And those benefits lasted for months afterward. One member of the FDA advisory council that recommended approval of the drug called it “groundbreaking.” Current treatment typically includes standard antidepressants or talk therapy, both of which can require weeks to take effect.
A recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is bringing new attention to postpartum depression and its treatment. The government panel, whose expert members are appointed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, says women should be screened for depression both during pregnancy and after giving birth. The decision means that screening must now be treated by health plans as a covered service under the Affordable Care Act.
The recommendation marks the first time the task force has suggested screening for maternal mental illness. But it reflects a growing recognition of the condition – and mothers’ need for access to screening and treatment. Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) introduced in 2015 the Bringing Postpartum Depression Out of the Shadows Act, a bill designed to help states better detect and treat the condition. She called the task force’s recommendation “a major turning point in how we care for families.”