The drug, called zuranolone, is not yet FDA-approved but was highly effective in a large clinical trial

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Newborn baby crying in mother hands
A new mom with her child
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As many as 1 in 5 women experience postpartum depression each year in the United States, and the condition often goes untreated. But a new pill could soon offer much-needed relief.

The drug, called zuranolone, helped relieve the symptoms of postpartum depression in 53% of women in a large, double-blind clinical trial.

The 151 new moms in the trial came from 33 clinics across the U.S. and had been diagnosed with severe postpartum depression. They were all six months postpartum or less, and most were white or Black.

The moms were either given 30 milligrams of zuranolone every night for 14 days, or a placebo pill. Those given zuranolone quickly improved — they started reporting a decrease in their depressive symptoms after just three days, in comparison to those on the placebo. After 15 days, 45% of those on the drug were in remission from their postpartum depression, while that was true of 23% of moms taking the placebo. By the 45th day, 53% of women on the pill were in remission, in contrast to 30% on the placebo.

Even women who took the pill but did not get full relief from their postpartum depression reported an improvement in their symptoms, the researchers said in the study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry on Wednesday.

"They were feeling so hopeless and so helpless. They felt worthless as a mother, and this just wiped that away," lead study author Dr. Kristina Deligiannidis told Insider. "They felt fully capable as women, as mothers, of taking care of their families, of going back to work, and doing everything that they wanted to do."

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Some participants did have mild side effects, such as headaches and fatigue, and two moms reported "sedation" from the drug.

The drug, which is not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration, will need to undergo further testing. Currently, there is one FDA-approved treatment for postpartum depression, called Zulresso, but it requires a 60-hour IV infusion administered at a hospital, and costs $34,000 per infusion.

The researchers said they need to monitor how the test subjects feel beyond the 45 days of the trial, and they also want to know how the pill works for nursing moms, as trial participants were asked not to breastfeed during the two weeks of testing and for an additional week after.

But "Zuranolone has the potential to become a novel treatment for patients with PPD," the researchers said.