Zurzuvae: Benefits, Uses, Dosage, Side Effects, Interactions

Zurzuvae, also known by its generic name zuranolone, is a medication available in the form of capsules, specifically designed to treat postpartum depression (PPD). It belongs to the class of drugs known as neuroactive steroids (NAS) and acts as a positive allosteric modulator (PAM) of the GABA-A receptor.

Postpartum depression is a serious and debilitating condition that can occur after childbirth or during the later stages of pregnancy. Women experiencing PPD may encounter intense feelings of anxiety, sadness, shame, guilt, sleep disturbances, stress, panic attacks, and even thoughts of suicide or attempts. This condition can significantly impact a mother’s ability to care for and bond with her baby, potentially leading to delays in the child’s physical and emotional development.

Zurzuvae’s main advantage is its rapid-acting nature, allowing it to work quickly to improve depressive symptoms in contrast to existing treatment options, which may take weeks or even months to show noticeable effects. As the first oral medication approved by the FDA to treat postpartum depression, Zurzuvae represents a significant advancement in addressing this challenging mental health issue.

The development of Zurzuvae began under the names SAGE-217 and BIIB125, undergoing rigorous clinical trials to assess its safety and efficacy for PPD treatment. The FDA’s approval of Zurzuvae for the treatment of adults with postpartum depression was granted on August 04, 2023, based on supporting evidence from the LANDSCAPE and NEST clinical trials.

The drug’s mechanism of action involves targeting the GABA-A receptor, a crucial neurotransmitter in the central nervous system responsible for regulating mood, arousal, behavior, and cognition. Imbalances in GABA are believed to contribute to mental health conditions such as depression. By acting as a positive allosteric modulator, Zurzuvae helps rebalance brain networks associated with mood regulation, leading to an improvement in depressive symptoms.

Zurzuvae was developed as an advancement over brexanolone (marketed as Zulresso), which was previously approved to treat postpartum depression but is only available as an intravenous injection. The oral formulation of Zurzuvae offers a more convenient and accessible option for patients, allowing them to take the medication as a once-daily capsule for a 14-day treatment period.

Zurzuvae is available in three different capsule strengths: 20 mg, 25 mg, and 30 mg. This provides flexibility in dosing options, allowing healthcare providers to tailor the treatment to individual patient needs.

Benefits of Zurzuvae

Zurzuvae offers several benefits as a treatment for postpartum depression (PPD):

1.      Rapid-Acting: One of the significant advantages of Zurzuvae is its rapid onset of action. Unlike traditional antidepressant medications, which may take weeks or even months to show noticeable improvements in depressive symptoms, Zurzuvae works quickly. Patients may experience a reduction in depressive symptoms as early as day 3 of treatment, and these improvements can last through day 42.

2.      First Oral Medication for PPD: Zurzuvae is the first oral medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to specifically treat postpartum depression. This approval marks a groundbreaking development in the field of mental health, offering a more accessible and convenient treatment option for women experiencing PPD.

3.      Convenient Administration: Zurzuvae is available in capsule form, making it easier for patients to take compared to intravenous injections or other complex treatment modalities. Patients can take the medication once daily for a period of 14 days, simplifying the dosing regimen and promoting better medication adherence.

4.      Targeted Treatment for PPD: Zurzuvae is specifically designed to address postpartum depression, a condition that affects women during the critical postpartum period. By targeting this unique subset of depression, Zurzuvae aims to address the emotional and psychological challenges faced by new mothers and promote a healthier maternal-infant bond.

5.      GABA-A Receptor Modulator: Zurzuvae acts as a neuroactive steroid GABA-A receptor positive allosteric modulator (PAM). By interacting with the GABA-A receptors in the brain, the medication helps to rebalance brain networks responsible for mood, arousal, behavior, and cognition. This targeted mechanism of action may contribute to its efficacy in relieving depressive symptoms.

6.      Improves Mother-Infant Bond: Effective treatment of postpartum depression with Zurzuvae may positively impact the mother-infant bond. By alleviating symptoms of depression, the mother can better engage with her baby, fostering a more nurturing and supportive environment for the child’s emotional and physical development.

7.      Potential Reduction in Suicidal Thoughts: One of the most concerning aspects of postpartum depression is the risk of suicidal thoughts or actions. Zurzuvae, as an antidepressant medication, may help reduce the risk of suicidal ideation and promote a safer environment for the mother and her baby.

It is essential to note that while Zurzuvae offers many benefits, it may not be suitable for everyone.

How Zurzuvae is taken

Dosing information for Zurzuvae is as follows:

•        Zurzuvae is taken once a day in the evening, with fatty food, for a period of 14 days (equivalent to two weeks).

•        The standard dose is 50 mg in the evening.

•        The treatment duration is 14 days, and patients are advised to adhere to the full course of treatment.

•        For patients who are unable to tolerate the 50 mg dose once daily, the healthcare provider may consider reducing the dose to 40 mg.

Zurzuvae is available in three different capsule strengths: 20 mg, 25 mg, and 30 mg.

If a patient misses a dose of Zurzuvae, the following steps should be taken:

•        Skip the missed dose and continue with the regular dosing schedule.

•        Do not take extra capsules to compensate for the missed dose.

•        Continue taking Zurzuvae once daily until the entire 14-day treatment course is completed.

In the event of a potential overdose with Zurzuvae, it is essential to seek immediate medical attention. Patients can call their healthcare provider, the Poison Help Line at 1-800-222-1222, or go to the nearest hospital emergency room right away.

Patients taking Zurzuvae should be cautious and avoid certain activities to ensure their safety:

•        Driving a car, operating machinery, or engaging in other hazardous activities should be avoided for at least 12 hours after each dose of Zurzuvae.

•        The medication may cause drowsiness, confusion, or dizziness, which could impair one’s ability to perform tasks that require full alertness.

Furthermore, it is essential to avoid alcohol consumption or the use of other medications that may cause drowsiness or dizziness while taking Zurzuvae. If a patient is unsure about the compatibility of other medications with Zurzuvae, it is crucial to consult their healthcare provider before combining them.

By following the dosing instructions and safety precautions, patients can maximize the benefits of Zurzuvae in the treatment of postpartum depression while minimizing the risk of potential side effects and interactions with other substances.


If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, it is essential to inform your healthcare provider, as Zurzuvae may pose a risk to your unborn baby. It is crucial to discuss the potential benefits and risks of continuing or discontinuing this medication during pregnancy with your healthcare provider.

If you are of childbearing age and taking Zurzuvae, effective contraception should be used while on the medication and for one week after completing the treatment course. This precaution is necessary to prevent potential harm to a developing fetus.

In the event that you become pregnant while on Zurzuvae, it is vital to notify your healthcare provider immediately. A healthcare professional can assess the best course of action based on individual circumstances and may consider alternatives or adjustments to the treatment plan.

To further study the effects of Zurzuvae on pregnancy outcomes, there is a dedicated pregnancy registry available for females who are exposed to this medication during pregnancy. The primary purpose of this registry is to collect valuable information about the health of women exposed to Zurzuvae and their babies. If you become pregnant during treatment with Zurzuvae, your healthcare provider may recommend registering with the National Pregnancy Registry for Antidepressants. You can reach the registry at 1-844-405-6185 or visit their website at to participate.


Zurzuvae has the potential to pass into breast milk, and the impact on a nursing baby is not yet fully understood. If you are breastfeeding or planning to breastfeed while on Zurzuvae, it is crucial to have a discussion with your healthcare provider about the potential risks and benefits.

Your healthcare provider can provide guidance on the best way to proceed with feeding your baby during treatment with Zurzuvae. They will consider factors such as the severity of your postpartum depression and the potential risks associated with breastfeeding while on this medication.

Having an open conversation with your healthcare provider about your individual circumstances will help you make an informed decision regarding breastfeeding while on Zurzuvae, ensuring the safety and well-being of both you and your baby.

Zurzuvae Side Effects

Zurzuvae, while an effective medication for postpartum depression, may cause certain serious side effects that require careful monitoring and attention. These side effects include:

1.      Increased risk of suicidal thoughts or actions: As with many antidepressant medications, Zurzuvae may raise the risk of suicidal thoughts and actions, particularly in individuals aged 24 years and younger. It is crucial for patients and their healthcare providers to be vigilant in identifying and preventing such thoughts or actions.

•        Patients should closely monitor any sudden changes in mood, behavior, thoughts, or feelings, especially during the initiation of the medication or dosage adjustments.

•        If any new or sudden changes in mood, behavior, thoughts, or feelings occur, patients must inform their healthcare provider immediately.

•        Attending all follow-up visits with the healthcare provider as scheduled and seeking help between visits when needed is essential to address any concerns about symptoms.

•        It is vital to be aware of symptoms that may indicate increased risk, such as attempts to commit suicide, panic attacks, thoughts about suicide or dying, new or worsened irritability, new or worsened depression, aggressive behavior, extreme restlessness, excessive talking or activity, trouble sleeping, acting impulsively on dangerous impulses, new or worsened anxiety, or any unusual changes in behavior or mood.

Common Zurzuvae side effects may include:

1.      Sleepiness or drowsiness

2.      Tiredness

3.      Dizziness

4.      Common cold

5.      Diarrhea

6.      Urinary tract infection

It is essential to note that the list of common side effects is not exhaustive, and there may be other effects not mentioned here. If patients experience any side effects, they should promptly consult their doctor for medical advice. Patients can also report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.


1.      Decreased ability to drive or perform dangerous activities: Zurzuvae may reduce a patient’s awareness and alertness, affecting their ability to drive safely, operate machinery, or engage in hazardous activities.

•        Patients should avoid driving, operating machinery, or undertaking dangerous tasks for at least 12 hours after taking each capsule during the 14-day treatment period.

•        Assessing personal ability to drive safely or determining the extent to which the medicine affects them may be challenging, and caution is necessary.

•        Zurzuvae may cause sleepiness, drowsiness, slow thinking, dizziness, confusion, and difficulty walking, increasing the risk of falls while on the medication.

•        Combining Zurzuvae with alcohol, other CNS depressants, or opioids can exacerbate these symptoms and may lead to breathing difficulties.

•        Patients must inform their healthcare provider if they experience any of these symptoms or if they worsen during the treatment with this medicine.

•        The healthcare provider may consider adjusting the dosage or discontinuing the treatment if these symptoms arise.


Zurzuvae, like many other medications, can interact with various drugs, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. While not all potential interactions are listed here, it is crucial to inform your healthcare provider about all the medications you are currently taking and any new medicine you start or stop using.

In particular, it is essential to discuss with your healthcare provider if you are taking the following types of medications:

1.      Antidepressants: Taking Zurzuvae alongside other antidepressant medications can lead to interactions that may affect the effectiveness or safety of both drugs. Your healthcare provider needs to be aware of all antidepressants you are taking to adjust your treatment plan accordingly.

2.      Opioids: Combining Zurzuvae with opioids can result in potentially dangerous interactions. Both Zurzuvae and opioids can have sedative effects on the central nervous system, leading to increased drowsiness, slow breathing, and other adverse effects. Your healthcare provider will consider the risks and benefits of combining these medications and may adjust the dosages or recommend alternative treatments.

3.      CNS depressants such as benzodiazepines: Central nervous system (CNS) depressants like benzodiazepines can cause drowsiness and affect cognitive function. When used in combination with Zurzuvae, these medications may intensify the sedative effects and increase the risk of falls, accidents, and other adverse events. Your healthcare provider will carefully assess the potential risks and may adjust your treatment plan accordingly.

It is important to remember that this is not an exhaustive list of possible drug interactions with Zurzuvae. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting or stopping any medication, including over-the-counter products and herbal supplements. By providing a comprehensive list of your current medications, your healthcare provider can make informed decisions about your treatment and ensure your safety and well-being throughout your therapy with Zurzuvae.


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
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