FDA approves first drug to treat postpartum depression

About 11 percent of mothers deal with postpartum depression. It's the most common complication of pregnancy and can be life threatening.

A new FDA approved treatment could curb depression within days, but there are some limitations -- like costing up to $35,000.

FDA approval means the drug has undergone well-designed, rigorous studies. But as promising as it may be, doctors say it may not be for everyone.

Busy mom Temple Taylor says it wasn't easy for her to recognize that she might be suffering from postpartum depression, having never suffered from depression before.

“Things that I normally do and really enjoyed, [I] wasn't able to do, or had no motivation to do,” she said.

But she's glad a friend encouraged her to get help.

She was prescribed a standard anti-depressant, but can see how the new drug – brexanolone, also known as Zulresso - could help many women experiencing what she went through.

“I think it could be really beneficial. I think it's wonderful that they are researching postpartum depression,” Taylor added.

Dr. Brian Rinehart is the director of the maternal high risk program at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.

“Inability to do your normal activities is not normal,” Dr. Rinehart said. “You can imagine somebody is having a depressive episode and saying, ‘I'm going to give you this and hopefully you'll feel better in two weeks, and if not, maybe we'll increase the dose or try something different.’ It can be hard.”

He says a major advantage to the new drug over traditional anti-depressants is it's supposed to work within 48 hours.

The potential downsides are that it costs up to $35,000 before insurance, and it remains to be seen how much companies will cover.

Also, it must be administered by infusion over 60 hours, so a hospital stay is necessary.

“One of the tricks will be - just being approved by the FDA - is who are the patients who actually need this versus those who need more standard therapy,” Dr. Rinehart said.

Rinehart says only time will tell how the drug works in the general population, but when you consider about 10 percent of new moms experience postpartum depression, another tool to help women conquer it is a step in the right direction.

“The fact that the FDA is looking at women's health and specifically with postpartum depression with these medications is awesome,” Dr. Rinehart added.

In trials, the drug maker reported a few people with worsening depression, so it's important for doctors to assess which patients it will best serve.

And while it's administered by infusion for now, pill form may be on the way.