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First Drug For Postpartum Depression Comes With Drawbacks

DENVER (CBS4) - The Food and Drug Administration recently approved the first and only drug specifically for postpartum depression. The drug, called Zulresso, acts quickly and can be effective for a month. The drug is hope, but it is not without drawbacks.

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(credit: CBS)

Right now, there is no pill version. It is an injection and the patient has to be hospitalized for 60 hours because the drug can cause dizziness and loss of consciousness. The cost is $34,000.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, postpartum depression affects one in nine women in the U.S. Beverly Warner is one of them.

"It ruins every image of motherhood that you can hold," Beverly told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

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Beverly Warner (credit: CBS)

Giving birth was traumatic for Beverly. Her baby, Ben, was nearly eight weeks early and just three pounds, one ounce.

Beverly had physical complications including pre-eclampsia before the birth and complications following a C-section. And she was suffering emotionally.

"I was terrified all the time, I couldn't tell you of what," she said.

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(credit: Beverly Warner )

Ben spent 50 days in the NICU. Even when he came home, Beverly struggled with anxiety, exhaustion, guilt and thoughts of suicide.

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(credit: Beverly Warner)

"Not so much so that I wished to actively harm myself, but I was thinking, 'Well, you know, what if I slid off this overpass. It wouldn't be such a bad thing'," she explained.

It was postpartum depression eventually treated with medication and therapy. Ben is now a happy, active 4 year old. Beverly still battles.

"Had that medication been available to me, I may not have this issue," she said.

The medication is Zulresso, the first-ever drug specifically for postpartum depression.

It acts in 60 hours, but it took forever to be developed.

"I think any kind of condition that only affects women often doesn't quite get the attention of the medical field that it should," said Dr. Neill Epperson, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at University of Colorado School of Medicine on the Anschutz Medical Campus.

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CBS4's Kathy Walsh interviews Dr. Neill Epperson. (credit: CBS)

Epperson was an investigator on the study of Zulresso and is an expert in women's behavioral health. She is well aware, that at $34,000 per treatment, the new drug is out of reach for many.

"It's going to require additional discussion with insurers both private and Medicaid," she said.

To Beverly Warner, access is critical.

"Not just because they have babies, because they are women and they're important, too," she said.

Right now, postpartum depression is treated with antidepressants which can take weeks to kick in.

This new drug is expected to be available in June.

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