There's a new drug with potential to cure postpartum depression

Right now, zuranolone is still in clinical trials. But it could be a game-changer for mothers everywhere.

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Postpartum depression is incredibly common: A recent study found that 1 in 4 women will experience it in the three years after giving birth.

One in four.

Right now, there's just one FDA-approved drug on the market that treats postpartum depression—but it's not widely available. That drug, brexanolone, is administered over the course of 60 hours through an IV drip. It's also expensive: without insurance, it costs $34,000.

There's good news on the horizon, though: There's a new drug in development to treat postpartum depression—and it could be a game-changer.


It's called zuranolone. Instead of being administered via IV at a hospital, zuranolone comes in pill form that parents take once a day for two weeks.

The team behind the new drug released a study in JAMA Psychiatry. In a double-blind trial involving 151 women with postpartum depression, researchers found that the drug led to a "significant reduction" in symptoms. More than half of the women who took the pill were in full remission by the end of the 45 day trial period.

Effect-of-zuranolone-vs-placebo-in-postpartum-depression JAMA Psychiatry

"These data suggest that this treatment, if approved, has the potential to work fast with a short-course of therapy that is well-tolerated, with the effect maintained over the long-term," said Anita H. Clayton, M.D., Chair of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, University of Virginia School of Medicine. "This will empower my patients to think differently about their depression and treatment and to rapidly return to their life. Depression is not an identity, it's an episodic disorder that we hope in the future to be able to treat quickly with treatments that are well-tolerated and with benefits that last."

You hear that, mama? Depression is not an identity. It's not who you are as a mother or parent.

It's a medical condition—one that's extremely common. The first step to getting the treatment you need is getting in front of a medical health professional.

Here are potential signs of postpartum depression to look out for (excerpted from The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama):

  • Feeling sad for long periods of time without an easy-to-pinpoint cause
  • Lack of desire to do the things you used to love
  • Difficulty getting out of bed
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feeling guilty often
  • Anger or rage
  • Worrying about things that seem odd or that you did not use to be worried about
  • Repetitive thoughts or actions, such as the need to clean something over and over or ensure that a door is locked multiple times
  • Fear of being left alone with your baby
  • Reliving difficult aspects of your birth
  • Not wanting to talk or think about your birth at all
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Periods of being extremely energized (lots of talking, moving, cleaning)
  • Feeling invincible or that you have powers beyond human ability
  • Hallucinations
  • Intrusive and disturbing thoughts; violent thoughts. Examples might be:
    • "My baby doesn't love me."
    • "I am not a good mom."
    • "I want to run away."
    • "I don't deserve to be happy."
    • "Something bad is going to happen to my baby. I know it."
    • "My family would be less burdened if I weren't around."
  • Unable to sit still
  • Not feeling bonded to your baby

If you have any concerns about your mental health—whether they're on this list or not—please seek out help from a trusted medical professional, like your doctor, midwife or doula.

"Postpartum depression negatively impacts women, their families and it is often underdiagnosed and undertreated," said Dr. Kristina Deligiannidis, the trial's principal investigator and lead author on the paper. "These encouraging results are an important step in efforts to develop a novel treatment option for patients who suffer from this prevalent condition."

Have more questions about what happens to your body through pregnancy and beyond? You can learn more in our book, Becoming Mama.

Becoming Mama

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This is the pregnancy book we wish we'd had when we first became mothers—a mama-centered guide that doesn't just focus on your baby's needs, but honors and coaches you through this profound life change.

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Jamie Orsini is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, military spouse, and a mom to two busy toddlers. In her spare time, Jamie volunteers with the Solar System Ambassador program with NASA/JPL and reads anything she can get her hands on. She’s currently working on her first novel.

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