The latest development is zuranolone, brand name Zurzuvae. On August 4, 2023, the FDA approved Zurzuvae, the first pill specifically for postpartum depression. Before then, healthcare professionals had to administer intravenous injections for this potentially life-threatening condition.
These announcements in women’s health also come at a time when states are considering the legality of abortion access — including bans on the abortion pill — since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022.
What is postpartum depression?
The FDA defines postpartum depression as a major depressive episode that occurs after a woman gives birth. The onset is usually within the first month after childbirth, but women remain at risk for up to a year afterwards. And although “postpartum” refers to the time after giving birth, this type of depression can also begin in the later stages of pregnancy.
Perinatal depression encompasses minor or major episodes of depression anytime during pregnancy or up to a year after giving birth.
The Office on Women's Health (OWH) differentiates postpartum depression from the “baby blues,” is a term people use to describe mood swings and feelings of worry and anxiety that are common after giving birth. Baby blues typically resolve on their own within two weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Postpartum depression is more serious and longer-lasting, and should be treated by a healthcare professional.
A 2018 CDC survey across 31 sites included in its Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System found that an average of 13.2% of women experienced postpartum depressive symptoms after giving birth. The data, collected from 29 states, New York City, and Puerto Rico, showed variance in the prevalence of postpartum depression, from 9.7% of women in Illinois to 23.5% in Mississippi. The average across all locations was 13%.
Who is most at-risk for developing postpartum depression?
Although not representative of the entire country, the same CDC survey showed that the prevalence of postpartum depressive symptoms was greater in younger women. 22% of women ages 19 and younger reported symptoms. Among older survey respondents, those numbers dropped: 17.8% of women ages 20–24, 11.9% of those who were 25–34, and 10.8% of those 35 and older reported symptoms.
Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native women reported the highest rate, at 22.0%. This was followed by non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander women at 19.2%, non-Hispanic Black women at 18.2%, Hispanic women at 12.0%, and non-Hipsanic white women at 11.4%.
Other factors that may increase the risk of developing postpartum depression include a history with depression, experiencing intimate partner or domestic violence, or living at or near the poverty line: women who received benefits from the government’s nutrition program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) reported higher rates (17.0%) compared to those who did not (11.2%).