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New postpartum depression medication undergoes phase III trial
2019-04-19 16:18:12
Michael Fox

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A potential new drug to treat severe post-partum depression is undergoing a phase III trial with 120 participants.In the phase II, double-blind,placebo-controlled study with 21 participants, 60 hours of infusion of the experimental medication, brexanolone, temporarily returned the level ofallopregnanolone -- a steroid -- to pre-delivery levels of women suffering from postpartum depression.

When the level of alloprenanolone was back to levels before the new mother delivered her baby, the brain can adjust to a more gradual decrease inthe level of the steroid.There was a full remission of the symptoms of postpartum depression in 70 percent of the 10 women treated with brexanlonewhich is a formulation of alloprenanolone that can be administered intravenously, Psychology Today reported.

Prevalence of postpartum depression

The results of the phase II trial, published in the Lancet journal, spell good news for millions of women who suffer from postpartum depression afterthey gave birth.The condition is common, affecting 10 to 20 percent of new mothers.About one percent experience severe postpartum depressionsymptoms because of many hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy.

Progesterone manufactures the steroid alloprenanolone in the body and brain .When a woman is pregnant, the levels of the two steroids substantiallychange.It increases up to 30 times; but after the woman delivers her baby, it returns rapidly to normal levels.When it does, the nerve cells that haveGABA -- the most common inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain -- take some time to adjust to the drop in level.The delay is believed to triggersymptoms of depression in some women who recently delivered a baby.Because alloprenanolone, the steroid, enhances the effects of GABA at a specific class of GABA receptors, it is classified as a neurosteroid, a subset of steroids made in the body or synthesized chemically,  altering brain function.The benefits of brexanolone, the chemically synthesized version of the steroid, was still apparent 30 days after the medication was administered through IV on the 21 women involved in the phase II trial, Stephen Kanes, lead author of the study, said. 

Before the phase II of the study, there was an open label study done on brexanolone on four women who suffered from severe postpartumdepression.All of the four reported to have achieved remission of their depressive symptoms.Sage Therapeutics manufactured brexanolone, which isnow on phase III with 120 participants.The trial is expected to finish in early 2018,  while Sage is simultaneously conducting a smaller phase II trial.

Other ways to treat postpartum depression

Until the clinical trials are completed and the drug gets the approval of the US Food and Drug Administration,  new mothers who would experiencethe symptoms of postpartum depression can learn from what other women who went through the medical condition did to overcome their depression. 

Linda Stricke Bressman, a 37-year-old mother from Brooklyn, combined the use of antidepressants, talk therapy, and a strong support network tohelp her get through postpartum depression after she gave birth to her first born.By the time she had a second baby, Bressman -- who stoppedbreastfeeding her second baby when the child turned six months, returned to the use of antidepressants and began cognitive therapy to flip hernegative thoughts into positive ones. 

Amber Smith, a 26-year-old woman from Chicago, Illinois, recalled that she turned into a wreck when she had her first baby because of postpartumdepression.An ordinary rain turned into a tornado in her mind, while she suspected every person who was strutting down the road planned to attackher and the baby.Researching and learning about the ailment helped Smith prepare to deal again with postpartum depression now that she is on theeighth month of pregnancy with her second child.

For her first child, 31-year-old Sara Rogers of Kansas City, Missouri, could not leave her house for fear the baby would cry in public.On her secondchild, because she hardly ate, Rogers lost 50 pounds in two and a half months.After she gave birth to her third baby, she discovered a postpartumdepression-based support group in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, HOPE.Her diagnosis of PPD started her road to recovery using antidepression medicationand counseling.

Fathers also go through PPD

It is not just new mothers who go through postpartum depression.It can also hit fathers, according to reality star Adam Busby of "OutDaughtered," Refinery29 reported.He is the father of the only set of female quintuplets in the US, plus a six-year-old daughter.He will discuss the effect of PPD on him in an upcoming episode of the TV show.

A study by the Center for Pediatric Research at the Eastern Virginia Medical School said postpartum depression hits 10 percent of fathers.Busby, in a preview of the upcoming episode of the series, said he came face to face with PPD when his five daughters were born.By acknowledging that PPD is a real struggle that daddies around the world also go through, Busby said, "I'd be doing an extreme disservice to our fans if I hid this from the public and wasn't honest with them."

He wants to create awareness that being a man does not exempt him from the condition.He also wants to end the stigma for people with mental health issues. "I know I'm not alone and I want others to know they aren't either," he said.

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