NEWS | April 19, 2019

Postpartum depression affects 1 in 9 women: What you should know

UC Davis Health research leads to new drug to treat postpartum depression


A UC Davis Health physician-scientist has been in the news recently for his work behind a new drug that treats postpartum depression, which affects some women after giving birth.

UC Davis Health researchers tested a new drug called Zulresso that is the first developed to specifically treat postpartum depression. UC Davis Health researchers tested a new drug called Zulresso that is the first developed to specifically treat postpartum depression.

Michael Rogawski, a professor of neurology and pharmacology at UC Davis School of Medicine, and his team researched and tested an injectable drug called Zulresso, a synthetic version of a natural hormone in the body.

The drug, developed by Sage Therapeutics, is the first FDA-approved medication specifically for postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression affects an estimated one in nine women and can cause them to feel emotionless, disinterested and even suicidal. Here’s more about postpartum depression and what you can do to help a woman who may be suffering:

What is postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that can affect women after childbirth. It can be characterized by mood swings, tearfulness and confusion. Without treatment, symptoms can continue for months. Many women experience “baby blues” during the few days after giving birth, causing them to feel sad or empty. These feelings usually go away after 3 to 5 days but can develop into postpartum depression if they last longer than two weeks.

What causes postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression is likely caused by a hormonal change in a woman’s body, in combination with other physical and emotional factors. It is not caused by something a woman does. Female hormones are the highest they’ll ever be during pregnancy, but after giving birth, they drop back down to normal levels. This sudden change could lead to postpartum depression.

What are some symptoms of postpartum depression?

  • Sad, empty feeling
  • Loss of interest in the mother’s newborn
  • Crying more than normal or for no real reason
  • Feeling moody or irritable
  • Loss of enjoyment in activities that are normally fun
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of concentration
  • Poor self-esteem

Are some women at increased risk for postpartum depression?

Some factors that can contribute to postpartum depression are a personal history of depression or bipolar disorder, lack of support from family and friends, depression during pregnancy, a newborn with special needs, difficulty breastfeeding or an unplanned pregnancy.

What should I do if someone I know may be suffering postpartum depression?

Encourage the woman to talk with her doctor. Offering emotional support and assisting the new mother with daily tasks may also help her get through postpartum depression.

If someone you know is thinking about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or call 911.

News on UC Davis Health’s research for new postpartum drug:

The Sacramento Bee: UC Davis research behind 1st drug specifically for postpartum depression

KCRA 3 News: UC Davis doctor creates drug to treat postpartum depression

NewsRadio KFBK: UC Davis neurologist develops drug for postpartum depression

Fox40 News: UC Davis Health professionals create postpartum depression drug