Albuquerque ER and Hospital CEO and co-founder Dr. Sanjay Kholwadwala and Chief Nursing Officer Kim Valerio stand in one of the hospital’s private rooms. ABQ ER is the first facility in New Mexico to offer Zulresso, a new IV drug that treats postpartum depression in a matter of hours while mothers stay in one of those hospital rooms, with family if they desire. Photo by Argen Marie Duncan.

Postpartum depression troubles many new mothers, but a local hospital is offering a new treatment that can have them feeling better in a matter of hours, not weeks.

Albuquerque ER and Hospital on Coors Boulevard is offering Zulresso, a 60-hour intravenous infusion.

“It’s showing amazing results for women suffering from postpartum depression,” said Chief Nursing Officer Kim Valerio.

Dr. Sanjay Kholwadwala, CEO and co-founder of ABQ ER, said it’s the only hospital in New Mexico certified to administer the treatment, although Valerio said another, larger hospital is working toward certification.

While Albuquerque ER and Hospital hadn’t treated a patient with Zulresso, Valerio said other facilities had seen women get relief from the depression a few hours into the infusion. ABQ ER staff members were working to get two patients approved for treatment through their insurance companies.

Kholwadwala said one in seven mothers experiences postpartum depression.

“It’s actually the second-leading cause of (maternal) mortality — suicide related to postpartum depression,” he said.

Postpartum depression usually is diagnosed a few weeks before to several weeks after delivery.

Valerio said pediatricians often notice the condition first, when mothers seem to be tearful, disheveled, feeling inadequate or not bonding with the baby during the child’s check-ups. Women may not feel like they can talk about that depression, she said.

Kholwadwala said hormone levels being thrown off causes it.

“It’s all chemical,” he said.

Zulresso corrects the hormonal balance, working differently than oral anti-depressants, Kholwadwala said. Those oral medications can take weeks or months to work.

To get insurance approval for the treatment, Valerio said, a woman must first be screened by a provider and try an oral anti-depressant medication for two weeks. Even then, it can take awhile for hospital staff to get preapproval from insurance companies, and the nursing care and medication require separate approval.

“They have to follow the steps,” Valerio said. “I know it’s hard to be patient.”

Once the insurance company approves the Zulresso treatment, an ABQ ER staff member will reach out to the mother to set dates and find out if she has anything special she needs or wants during the stay.

During Zulresso treatment at ABQ ER, Valerio said, each mother will have one nurse dedicated to taking care of her.

“The sole purpose of the nurse is to make sure Mom has everything she needs,” Valerio said.

The nurse can also provide a listening ear if the mother wants to talk.

Mothers will stay in ABQ ER’s private, quiet rooms during treatment.

“This is not a generic hospital room,” Valerio said.

While mothers are getting the IV infusion, she said, hospital staff will get them just about any kind of meal they want.

ABQ ER doesn’t have strict rules for visitation during Zulresso treatments, unless there’s concern about infectious diseases.

Spouses, babies and other family members can stay at the hospital with the mothers. The spouse or another adult must be responsible for caring for the baby.

Valerio said the infusion can have side effects, but they’re easy to manage. Kholwadwala said the nurse would monitor the woman carefully to make sure those side effects stay under control.

Valerio is excited to provide cutting-edge treatment to mothers.

“If we can provide something for our community, we’re going to do it,” she said.

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