New postpartum drug highlights continuing divide between the rich and the poor

Let’s start with the good news: For the first time ever, the FDA has approved a drug specifically designed to deal with postpartum depression (PPD). The drug is called Zulresso, and it is produced by Sage Therapeutics.

We know that PPD can be absolutely devastating. According to the article linked above, as many as one in nine women are hit by PPD. So the availability of a clinically successful drug designed specifically for PPD can be a godsend.

Now for the bad news: The cost and time period associated with Zulresso may put it far out of reach of many.

First, the cost: A whopping $34,000. That number might be slightly out of range for…you know, everyone not made of money.

As for it’s method of delivery? That’s another challenge: It has to be administered intravenously, over a 2.5 day period, in a certified clinic. That’s 2.5 days where a woman cannot work, cannot care for her baby (or the rest of her family). And let’s keep in mind, many women simply cannot afford to take 2.5 days off from work, and this is particularly true for hourly workers or those who are economically insecure.

Tragically – and unsurprisingly – women who need this help the most are also most likely to have this drug and its potential benefits out of reach. There are some women who are more likely to experience PPD, and unsurprisingly, in many cases, these are women who are more economically or socially vulnerable. These factors include job loss and a lack of other emotional, familial or financial support.

Simply put, this may mean that this new drug it is not an option for many. We know that tougher economic times – and tougher economic circumstances – lead to an increase in PPD cases. This treatment – both its costs and length of treatment – may be out of reach for many poorer women and their families.

To be clear, I’m not trying to poo-poo the potential success for Zulresso. I am trying to make a broader point though: Many areas of mental health treatment are, sadly, out of reach for the poorest among us. Hopefully, medical advances will continue to improve and make Zulresso’s life-saving benefits available for all women and families in society, regardless of their economic station in life.

Postpartum depression in…Dads?

I caught this article in Healthline and it made me want to further explore this topic: There is ample research which shows that Dad’s can suffer from Postpartum Depression, too.

First, a disclaimer. This is not an attempt to minimize the pain or severity of Postpartum Depression in Moms. This is not a #NotAllMen related entry, and please don’t take it that way. The evidence is clear – Postpartum Depression in women problem is real (with as many as one in seven women suffering), it is large and it is significantly more widespread than postpartum depression in men. Indeed, in my legislative career, I’ve worked on legislation which would help low income women be screened and treated for Postpartum Depression.

That being said, Postpartum does apparently hit Dads too, and I think its an issue worth exploring.

The Healthline article reviewed a variety of research on Postpartum in new fathers, which analyzed a variety of internet postings in blogs and chat rooms (yeah…not sure about that) and showed that many men suffered from symptoms about Postpartum and weren’t sure what to do or where to find information.

However, there is ample research – of a more rigorous, academic type – which shows that Postpartum does truly exist in men, so much so that it has a name: Paternal Postpartum Depression (PPD). This issue is widespread enough that there is an entire website dedicated to it. Postpartummen.com accurately notes that there are many symptoms of depression, but men often experience and express it differently, including through anger and alcohol. For what its worth, this is also something which I blogged about a couple of weeks ago.

How widespread is this issue? According to a study published in the Journal of American Medical Research, high – as many as one in ten men. The study also noted that the rates were slightly higher during the 3-6 month period, and PPD correlated moderately with maternal depression. Hormones are a big cause of maternal postpartum depression, but that’s also the case for men: Men experiencing PPD also have testosterone drops.

The good news is that treating PPD is just like treating any other disorder – as long as you are able to seek and find help, you’ll get there. As best I can tell, relying on therapists and support groups are widely accepted options to deal with PPD.

As always, I conclude by asking you for your opinion! Do you have experience with dealing or treating PPD? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!