New Postpartum Depression Drug Works Great – at a Heavy Cost

Postpartum depression drug Zulresso
As many as one in two moms experience postpartum depression in the weeks and months following the birth of their baby.

Good news: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just approved the first-ever medication intended to treat postpartum depression. It’s called Zulresso, and it proved to be fast acting and highly effective in studies. Unfortunately, this new postpartum depression drug comes with a hefty price tag: $34,000 per treatment.

The high price isn’t Zulresso’s only stumbling block. The treatment requires an in-patient stay of 60 hours, meaning a new mama would need to be away from her home for at least two and a half days. That’s because Zulresso must be administered intravenously by a health care provider in a medical facility, according to the FDA’s press release. Zulresso can cause dizziness and sudden unconsciousness, making it unsafe for a mom to be at home and caring for her baby during treatment.

Postpartum Depression Is Major Depression

With as many as half of American moms experiencing postpartum depression, there’s a serious need for effective treatment. Postpartum depression is a major depressive episode that often begins in the weeks and months after the baby is born. It can cause moms to feel overwhelmed by everyday tasks and lead moms to feel unable to bond with or care for their babies. Learn more about postpartum depression.

Regular antidepressants can be used for postpartum depression, but as they can take weeks to work, they are not the ideal treatment for moms who need immediate relief. But while experts are excited about Zulresso, many caution that its high price tag and time-consuming administration might make this medication out of reach for many moms, reports NPR. The postpartum depression drug is not yet covered by insurance, although NPR mentioned that drug manufacturer Sage Therapeutics is in conversations with insurance companies to change that.

Postpartum depression occurs in the weeks and months after delivery. Symptoms include feeling overwhelmed, isolated, and irritable, and can prevent moms from caring for themselves and their babies. Talk therapy and antidepressant medications are common treatments.

How Zulresso Works

Zulresso includes a synthetic version of the hormone allopregnanolone, which is naturally made by the body from the hormone progesterone. In the studies and clinical trials that led to the drug’s approval by the FDA, moms who were experiencing moderate to severe postpartum benefited most from the treatment. Many began to feel better in as little as 48 hours.

Interestingly, about half of the moms who received the placebo also showed improvement. That makes sense: give new moms a few days off after birthing and caring for a baby, plus some dedicated TLC and we bet many moms will feel much more rested and capable. (That is not to say they won’t continue to need treatment and support.)

Other Challenges

It’s unclear whether it’s safe to breastfeed while receiving Zulresso. The drug manufacturer Sage Therapeutics noted in its press release that the medication passes into the breastmilk, and moms should consult with their doctors regarding the safety of breastfeeding on Zulresso. For moms with postpartum depression who are exclusively breastfeeding, that could feel like an insurmountable challenge. Moms in the test studies weren’t allowed to breastfeed.

Zulresso is expected to be available beginning in June 2019.

What are your thoughts on Zulresso? Would your family be able to manage the high price tag and 60 hours without you? What’s been your experience with postpartum depression?


If you think you might have postpartum depression, don’t ignore your symptoms or suffer alone. It is not your fault and help is available. Contact the Postpartum Support International helpline at (800) 994-4PPD or find support in your areaon their website. The websites and organizations listed here are also a good place to begin seeking support.

This is not medical advice. This article is not meant to substitute medical advice provided by a practicing medical professional. If you have any concerns or feel like harming yourself or others, contact your physician immediately.