At Carolina’s School of Medicine, Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody investigates new treatments for postpartum depression, a mood disorder in women that can be triggered by fluctuations in reproductive hormones. Symptoms, which include severe anxiety, excessive crying and overwhelming fatigue, usually develop within the first few weeks after giving birth but may begin during pregnancy or up to a year after birth.
Postpartum depression can make it difficult for the mother to bond with her child.
Almost everyone knows someone who has been impacted by a maternal mental health issue, whether it’s ourselves, our mothers, our sisters, our aunts, wives, husbands. Maternal mental health affects at least one in nine women, postpartum depression being the most prevalent, and that’s approximately 10% to 15% of women who give birth.
Meltzer-Brody was the principal investigator for clinical trials on a medicine that is the first specifically to treat postpartum depression. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved medicine Zulresso (brexanolone) showed potentially life-changing results.
Given the robust results of the clinical trials, we believe that this is going to be an important treatment option that could provide relief for women with postpartum depression: a disorder that can have a range of severity but can be devastating for mothers and families.
Meltzer-Brody’s team also developed a smartphone app that warns women about postpartum depression and collects data for use in prevention and treatment. The free PPD Act app asks women about their experience with postpartum depression and for a DNA sample via a “spit kit.”
Thousands of women across the country participated. More than 3,500 DNA samples have come in, and these are being contributed to an international consortium that is studying the genetic marker for postpartum depression.
Meltzer-Brody wants women to talk with their doctors and medical caregivers, particularly because postpartum depression is the greatest cause of maternal mortality.
Women should not suffer in silence and also know that the symptoms they’re having are not OK. One of the most important things we can do is talk with all new moms who are having symptoms of depression or anxiety and not understanding what it means. It’s not your fault. You have not done something wrong.
Part of the School of Medicine’s mission is to serve the people of North Carolina.
Meltzer-Brody contributes to that mission through a telemedicine program that allows physicians in communities across the state to consult with Carolina’s medical professionals about their patients.
Our mission is to change the way we deliver clinical care using the best of research and science to develop new treatments and new ways of doing things that will improve the way women are treated with postpartum depression and make care better than it was before.
Every day, Carolina faculty members engage in groundbreaking research, innovative teaching and public service that impacts in our community and the state, nation and the world.
Tune in to Focus Carolina during morning, noon and evening drive times and on the weekends to hear their stories and find out what ignites their passion for their work. You can listen to WCHL at 97.9 FM or 1360 AM. The interviews will also be available anytime online at gazette.unc.edu under the Focus Carolina tab.
Airs week of Aug. 5
Airs week of Aug. 12
Vin Steponaitis is secretary of the faculty and the William E. Leuchtenburg Distinguished Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology at Carolina. As secretary, he oversees the Office of Faculty Governance and assists in presiding over the regular meetings during the academic year. His research focuses on pre-colonial Indian cultures of the American South, including the origins of political centralization, chiefdoms, studies of ancient art styles and the analysis of ancient ceramics.