How new drug treatment Zulresso gave one mom her life back again
For the first four months of her baby’s life, Tiffany Loesch was overwhelmed by feelings of panic, anxiety and hopelessness.
“After giving birth, it was like all of the happiness that I once felt was stripped away and turned into a dark hole of despair,” Loesch said.
As months passed, simple tasks like sleeping, eating and having a conversation became challenging.
“I felt like a shell of the person I once was,” Loesch said. “There are no words to describe the pain and suffering that I felt.”
Luckily for Loesch, she had a family friend who had heard about Zulresso, the first intravenous (IV) drug for the treatment of postpartum depression to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in March 2019. Loesch asked her physician about the treatment and was referred to UC Davis Medical Center, the Sacramento region's only nationally ranked academic health center and Sacramento's No. 1-ranked hospital.
UC Davis Medical Center is also where Zulresso, also known as Brexanolone, was first developed by UC Davis neurologist Michael Rogawski. In laboratory-based and clinical research, Rogawski and his colleagues discovered the neuroactive steroid allopregnanolone could treat postpartum depression. Zulresso is only available to patients at select, certified health care facilities like UC Davis Medical Center.
Loesch was scheduled for an office consultation with physician Shannon Clark from the UC Davis Maternal-Fetal Medicine Department to see if she would be a viable candidate for Zulresso treatment.
Clark, who is double boarded in family medicine and psychiatry, regularly treats women with postpartum depression and recognized those signs and symptoms in Loesch.
Postpartum depression strikes one in nine new mothers in the United States. Symptoms can include crying spells, insomnia, appetite loss, mood swings and panic attacks.
A return to her old self
Clark hoped that the one-time, 60-hour Zulresso infusion would be the right treatment to bring Loesch back from the depths of her depression. Loesch was admitted to UC Davis Medical Center for treatment.
After only 24 hours of the Zulresso infusion, Loesch was shocked and happy to feel her old self returning.
“Almost all my anxiety had lifted. My appetite returned. My mood was elevated and I began to feel happy again. I was more talkative,” Loesch said.
By the end of her Zulresso treatment, Loesch said it felt like a reset button had been pushed.
Clark has seen firsthand the life-changing outcomes of her patients like Loesch thanks to Zulresso. It has made her a believer.
“Postpartum depression can be severely debilitating in all areas of normal daily function at a time when a woman is already impaired by sleep deprivation and isolation just by caring for a newborn under any circumstances. I am happy to say that even I have been surprised by the profound effect treatment with Zulresso has afforded our patients - rapidly bringing their mood symptoms to remission. It has been rewarding to be a part of the treatment process,” Clark said.
These days, Loesch is back home in Humboldt County and cherishing life again with her baby, Liam.
“I think this drug will give a lot of moms their life back and hopefully take away months and months of suffering,” Loesch said. “I really feel blessed and grateful for my experience and the UC Davis Medical Center staff for making this all possible for me.”