New postpartum drug gives moms hope

A touching and tender photo shows Katie Olson cradling her newborn son Brian, but it doesn't show her struggling to deal with postpartum depression.

"In that photo, I was thinking that he deserves a better mom," said Olson, a registered nurse who works with new mothers. "I felt isolated. I felt lost. I felt like I wasn't connecting with anybody."

On Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new medication called Zulresso which could treat postpartum depression, which is a mood disorder that women can experience after childbirth.

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The new drug is giving mothers, and those who work with them, new hope.

Olson, owner of MomMe Wellness in Crystal Lake, said it's a chance to also raise awareness.

"I think that's going to be an amazing opportunity for moms to start feeling better sooner," said Olson, the mother of a blended family with five boys. "I think it's amazing because it's going to open the door for other drugs now. Drugs that are specifically for moms with postpartum depression. It is different from general depression."

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Olson said some mothers even feel symptoms before birth as well.

Symptoms include extreme sadness or anxiety, exhaustion, and the feelings are more intense than the so-called "baby blues."

In Illinois, one in five new moms experience postpartum, and that's about 30,000 women every year, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

In Chicago, the new drug is welcomed news for the mother of Melanie Stokes, who had a 3-month-old daughter when she jumped to her death in 2001.

"It's about time because women have been suffering for too long," said Carol Blocker, who tried to help Stokes through postpartum depression and later became an advocate.

Blocker has spent years advocating and raising awareness.

Olson, who is now the mother of a blended family with five boys, said she doesn't want mothers to feel like they are not alone.

Her MomMe Wellness center is a women's gathering place with rooms for lactating, therapy, and a place for moms to relax and talk. And when you walk in, you'll see a sign that reads: "You are not alone."

"They are definitely not alone," said Olson. "Many of us who felt that way have all done well, and they will feel better too if they all get help."
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