Two Important PPD Studies

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.

PPD ACT

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.

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What Hayden and Drew and These 8 Other Celebrity Moms Have in Common

I have to admit, I am a bit behind on blogging about current events that by now are no longer current in the literal sense, but will always be an important topic that should always discussed in as many media as possible–in person via conversations and in both online and print format.  Postpartum depression (PPD), or actually mental health, is a topic that must stay in mainstream news.  Experiences must be shared regularly everywhere if we want to clear away the stigma and misconceptions about PPD.

In the past few weeks, most if not all of us who keep abreast of news have heard about Hayden Panetierre’s struggle with PPD.  Click here for a video of her interview on “Live with Kelly and Michael” and here for a recording of a discussion about PPD on On Point with Tom Ashbrook that includes Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody (Director of the Perinatal Psychiatry Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Center for Mood Disorders), Aimee Danielson (Director of the Women’s Mental Health Program in the Department of Psychiatry at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital), and Dr. Deborah Da Costa (Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at McGill University in Montreal, Canada).  Realizing her condition was something that she needed professional help for, she checked herself into a facility to help with her recovery.

Ever since her role in Heroes, I have admired her.  I admired her even more when I learned she’s a huge marine wildlife activist and very much involved with Sea Shepherd.  I am passionate about marine wildlife and support Sea Shepherd.  And I admire her even more now that I know she’s struggled with PPD and realizes the urgency of spreading awareness and the great deal of stigma that is associated with PPD.

Coincidentally, right around the same time, Drew Barrymore opened up about her battle with PPD.

And then a few other articles popped up via Hollywood Reporter and US Magazine about other celebrity PPD survivors, like Brooke Shields, Marie Osmond, Bryce Dallas Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow–all of whom I’ve blogged previously about–plus Courteney Cox, Vanessa Lachey, Amanda Peet and Alanis Morissette.

I am truly grateful for these celebrity moms sharing with the public the fact that they struggled with a postpartum mood disorder (PMD).  By sharing their struggles it further shows that new mothers of all financial and social situations may experience a PMD.  One out of eight (or approximately 15-20%) of new mothers succumb to PPD.  PPD is experienced by women of all cultures, ethnicities, social statuses, and religions.  It’s primarily thanks to celebrities speaking up about their experiences that postpartum depression stories reach people far and wide.  It’s extremely challenging for the average mother’s story (like mine or any of the other mothers chosen for the A Plus article I blogged about last night) to get any attention, which is why–and I must reiterate from yesterday–I am so grateful that A Plus chose my story to share with its readership.