Expert Roundtable: Updates in Postpartum Depression Treatment


Postpartum depression (PPD) is a typical variety of main depressive disorder (MDD) that impacts up to 15% of mothers, with considerable implications for maternal overall health, mother-kid bonding, and kid improvement.1 These complications illuminate the require for early and helpful therapy of PPD.

Psychotherapy and antidepressants have led to symptom improvement in several circumstances of PPD.2 However, established pharmacologic approaches for MDD do not target the proposed mechanisms of PPD, and research have shown that a substantial quantity of patients with PPD do not accomplish remission with antidepressants. Additionally, for these who do respond to typical antidepressants, improvement in symptoms may well not take impact for weeks or months.3

In 2019, following a demonstration of security and efficacy in 3 double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trials, the antidepressant brexanolone became the 1st pharmacologic therapy authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration for PPD therapy.4,5,1 As an analog of the progesterone metabolite allopregnanolone, brexanolone, it “enhances the inhibitory effects of GABAA, restores dysfunctional GABAA transmembrane channels, and mimics” allopregnanolone.6


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Trial benefits showed higher remission prices (defined as Hamilton Depression Rating Scale [HAM-D] total score ≤7) with brexanolone compared with placebo. In a phase II trial, for instance, remission prices with brexanolone have been 70% at each 60 hours and 30 days vs 9% and 18%, respectively, with placebo.7 Since its approval, brexanolone has verified to be a useful addition to the variety of therapy possibilities for PPD, despite the fact that disparities in patient access represent a essential challenge.

For an in-depth discussion about the present part of brexanolone and other updates in PPD management, we interviewed the following professionals:

Jennifer L. Payne, MD, professor and vice-chair of study in the division of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville

Riah Patterson MD – Emotional Well-being, Mental Health, Psychiatrists, Psychologists

Riah Patterson, MD, assistant professor in the departments of psychiatry and emergency medicine and health-related director of the Perinatal Psychiatry In-Patient Unit at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill

Andrew M. Novick MD – Emotional Well-being, Mental Health, Psychiatrists, Psychologists

Andrew M. Novick, MD, assistant professor in the division of psychiatry and clinician in the Center for Women’s Behavioral Health and Wellness at the University of Colorado School of Medicine Anschutz Medical Campus (CU Anschutz) in Aurora

Dr Payne and Dr Novick every co-authored current papers discussing PPD and brexanolone, and Dr Patterson and colleagues published a study in 2022 detailing the outcomes of 16 patients treated with brexanolone at UNC Hospitals.8,9,1

What are presently the major therapy approaches for PPD, and what are some of the leading challenges in PPD management? 

Dr Payne: The major therapy method for PPD is to use typical antidepressants, ordinarily SSRIs. Challenges contain the length of time SSRIs take to work, side effects, the require for ongoing therapy when breastfeeding, and a median response price of about 50%.

Dr Patterson: PPD remains the most typical complication of childbirth, and sadly it nevertheless goes largely untreated or undertreated. Many new mothers will appear for nonpharmacological possibilities such as therapy and elevated social assistance. Yet several will require therapy with a mixture of therapy and medication management, ordinarily in the SSRI/SNRI antidepressant category. These medicines can be prosperous but can also take 6 to 8 weeks to be totally helpful, which is actually hard throughout such a vital time in a family’s improvement.  

Dr Novick: In basic, present therapy approaches for PPD mirror these for MDD outdoors the postpartum period. The explanation for this is most likely 2-fold: There’s nevertheless a relative lack of study on therapy distinct to PPD, in particular novel therapies and typical therapies for MDD are most likely capable to target, albeit imperfectly, the biopsychosocial elements of PPD that are each distinctive from and comparable to MDD outdoors the postpartum period.

So that indicates monoamine-primarily based antidepressants, such as SSRIs/SNRIs, as effectively as psychotherapy, stay our cornerstone therapy tools. While the proof for antidepressant and psychotherapy techniques in PPD pales in comparison to what’s offered for MDD outdoors the postpartum period, we have adequate proof and knowledge to propose them. We also have promising proof suggesting that other interventions applied in MDD are helpful in PPD, such as ECT [Electroconvulsive Therapy], TMS [Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation], and vibrant light therapy.10,11 Of course, a enormous win for psychiatry and PPD was the arrival of brexanolone as the 1st FDA-authorized therapy particularly for PPD. 

Managing PPD does have some distinctive challenges. When it comes to medicines, we require to look at and respect the patient’s preference for breastfeeding. Most antidepressant medicines have extremely favorable security profiles in breastfeeding, but of course absolutely nothing comes with zero threat, and the quantity of security information we have on medicines varies. 

Also, apart from difficulties of access to top quality mental overall health care that exist for all populations, there are extra barriers with postpartum patients. We live in a society that areas tremendous expectations and pressures on new parents, and but does small in terms of delivering sources. Even with the spread of telehealth, it is a lot to ask a new parent to attend postpartum stick to-ups with their OB/GYN, appointments with a psychiatric practitioner to handle medication, and normal psychotherapy sessions.     

How has brexanolone changed the landscape of PPD therapy, and what have been your private observations in treating patients with this drug? 

Dr Payne: Brexanolone has offered us yet another option to beginning antidepressants and waiting weeks for them to work. Brexanolone has a extremely higher response and remission price compared with typical antidepressants, starts to work inside the 1st day, and has a sustained response. Standard antidepressants take weeks to work and have a reduce response price general. With brexanolone, girls with PPD are relieved of their symptoms immediately and can go dwelling to appreciate their expanded household.

Dr Patterson: Brexanolone became commercially offered in mid-2019, and it is a actually great alternative for girls with moderate to serious PPD who are insured and much less than 6 months postpartum. This therapy is a 60-hour infusion that requires spot in a health-related facility. Brexanolone has a boxed warning for excessive sedation and prospective loss of consciousness, and so it needs sedation scale monitoring each and every 2 hours and continuous pulse oximetry. Despite these challenges, it is normally effectively-tolerated and quickly acting, so girls can start out to get relief throughout the infusion and several attain remission by the finish of the infusion, creating this the preferred therapy.

The vast majority of my patients are pleased to have received this therapy and report enhanced depression, anxiousness, and improved sleep top quality and quantity. It is incredible to see mothers substantially strengthen more than a handful of days. I have witnessed moms come into the hospital depressed and quiet, and then they leave excited to be with their infants, wanting to share photographs, and speaking about hopes and dreams for their household.  

Dr Novick: Brexanolone is distinctive from virtually all other drugs we use in PPD, and in psychiatry in basic, in that it was created primarily based on prior biological expertise of PPD. In psychiatry, we’ve had a tradition of working backwards, ie, “Here’s a drug that seems to work for depression, so what does that tell us about the biology of depression?” With brexanolone, there was information that allopregnanolone seemed to be actually significant for mood and also information that allopregnanolone levels took a nosedive following delivery. So, it only created sense to start out researching the antidepressant prospective of providing allopregnanolone in the postpartum period. 

The outcome was a speedy-acting drug that particularly addresses biological things in PPD — and 1 of the search phrases is “rapid.” We all hate the reality that our depression therapies take so extended to work, in particular considering the fact that there’s constantly the possibility that they may well not be helpful for any offered person. And even even though every person deserves speedy relief from depression, there’s a unique urgency in the postpartum period. 

The sooner we efficiently treat PPD, the sooner we have a parent who is back to functioning optimally, and the much less time we expose the infant to a depressed caregiver. We know that the longer depression persists, the tougher it can be to treat. With brexanolone, not only can you get a actually speedy response, but even if it does not work, you haven’t lost the 4-plus weeks that you may possibly have when evaluating the efficacy of classic therapies. 

Unfortunately, regardless of the part of Dr Neill Epperson [the chair of the department of psychiatry at CU Anschutz] in the original brexanolone research, we have been unable to bring brexanolone to CU Anschutz, and as a result I have but to personally observe people on the drug. My expertise of it is primarily based solely on the study.



Originally published in www.psychiatryadvisor.com