Since my last blog post, I thankfully haven’t been insane with work as I’d been in earlier weeks. Truthfully, I’ve just been lazy. It’s like my body is finally letting me be relaxed and not doing much, for once in who knows how long that I’ve honestly lost track. I am still in the process of transitioning off of the laptop I’ve had for over 8 years, and with this blog post will be closer to my goal, since it will leave me with only 5 more tabs left open to blog about. My last blog post included 4 stories of moms who died from severe cases of postpartum depression (PPD). This blog post is about 2 PPD studies.
BREXANALONE / SAGE-547
This past June, I was beyond excited in reading an announcement from the UNC Health Care and UNC School of Medicine Newsroom titled “UNC researchers lead clinical trial evaluating potential treatment for postpartum depression” about a new treatment for PPD called brexanolone (or SAGE-547) currently in clinical trial phase 3. The results of the clinical trials have been extremely promising thus far, with SAGE-547 providing a fairly rapid onset of relief for the participants, but it still needs to undergo further tests before the FDA would approve it for use by new moms….and how AMAZING would that be! It would make a huge difference in the lives of so many mothers and their families–with 1 in 7 new moms experiencing PPD–not to mention save lives!
Brexanalone is also known as allopregnanolone, which is a steroid in the brain (neurosteroid) derived from progesterone that helps to regulate mood. There is an increase before and a sudden decrease after childbirth when it comes to both allopregnanolone and progesterone, and it’s the sudden drop that seems to trigger PPD for some women. There are currently no medications specifically intended to treat PPD. Antidepressants like Paxil, which are supposed to increase levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, can take several weeks to “kick in” (it took 4 weeks for me), if at all. For some moms suffering from PPD, multiple antidepressants fail to do anything. And if you’ve ever been through depression you know how a day spent depressed can feel like an eternity, so can you imagine what weeks, or even months, spent desperate for a relief from symptoms, while caring for a new baby, must be like?
On July 14th, I heard Samantha Meltzer-Brody, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Perinatal Psychiatry Program at the UNC School of Medicine, talk in person about the treatment and the study at the annual Postpartum Support International conference in Philadelphia.
You can participate in testing via the Hummingbird Study. The website includes information on how to find out if you can participate. On the website, there is also a helpful guide on how to to identify the warning signs of PPD of and provide support to a new mom with PPD.
In order to better understand why some women suffer from PPD or postpartum psychosis and some do not, what causes PPD, as well as how to detect, treat and even prevent PPD and postpartum psychosis, information from as many women as possible needs to be collected for analysis. To help collect data from as many participants as possible, an app was created. Thank goodness for technology!
Last year, Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody–yes, her again–was part of a team (that included the National Institute of Mental Health, UNC Chapel Hill and Apple) to create the PPD ACT iOS app, which I’d previously blogged about. It is an app that is is free and available to download via iPhone (and now Android phone!) in English and in Spanish in Australia, Canada, and the United States, and is coming soon to the UK and to Denmark. Any mom who suspects she has experienced symptoms of PPD or postpartum psychosis is encouraged to download the app and join the study. Even if you think/know you had PPD, you can participate in order to help advance the study to benefit moms in the future. It only takes 10 minutes of your time. I just did it myself, and it took less than 10 minutes, including the time to download the app to my iPhone. Part 1 of the app is a short survey to get feedback on whether you have/had PPD and receive mental health resources if you are currently experiencing PPD. Part 2 involves participation by those who have/had PPD in a DNA study using a spit kit.
Click here for access to articles in the New York Times, Buzzfeed, CNN, Huffington Post, and the Lancet on PPD ACT.