BACKGROUND: Post-partum depression is associated with substantial morbidity, and improved pharmacological treatment options are urgently needed. We assessed brexanolone injection (formerly SAGE-547 injection), a positive allosteric modulator of γ-aminobutyric-acid type A (GABAA) receptors, for the treatment of moderate to severe post-partum depression. METHODS: We did two double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled, phase 3 trials, at 30 clinical research centres and specialised psychiatric units in the USA. Eligible women were aged 18-45 years, 6 months post partum or less at screening, with post-partum depression and a qualifying 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D) score (≥26 for study 1; 20-25 for study 2). Women with renal failure requiring dialysis, anaemia, known allergy to allopregnanolone or to progesterone, or medical history of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or schizoaffective disorder were excluded. Patients were randomly assigned (1:1:1) to receive a single intravenous injection of either brexanolone 90 μg/kg per h (BRX90), brexanolone 60 μg/kg per h (BRX60), or matching placebo for 60 h in study 1, or (1:1) BRX90 or matching placebo for 60 h in study 2. Patients, the study team, site staff, and the principal investigator were masked to treatment allocation. The primary efficacy endpoint was the change from baseline in the 17-item HAM-D total score at 60 h, assessed in all patients who started infusion of study drug or placebo, had a valid HAM-D baseline assessment, and had at least one post-baseline HAM-D assessment. The safety population included all randomised patients who started infusion of study drug or placebo. Patients were followed up until day 30. The trials have been completed and are registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, numbers NCT02942004 (study 1) and NCT02942017 (study 2). FINDINGS: Participants were enrolled between Aug 1, 2016, and Oct 19, 2017, in study 1, and between July 25, 2016, and Oct 11, 2017, in study 2. We screened 375 women simultaneously across both studies, of whom 138 were randomly assigned to receive either BRX90 (n=45), BRX60 (n=47), or placebo (n=46) in study 1, and 108 were randomly assigned to receive BRX90 (n=54) or placebo (n=54) in study 2. In study 1, at 60 h, the least-squares (LS) mean reduction in HAM-D total score from baseline was 19·5 points (SE 1·2) in the BRX60 group and 17·7 points (1·2) in the BRX90 group compared with 14·0 points (1·1) in the placebo group (difference -5·5 [95% CI -8·8 to -2·2], p=0·0013 for the BRX60 group; -3·7 [95% CI -6·9 to -0·5], p=0·0252 for the BRX90 group). In study 2, at 60 h, the LS mean reduction in HAM-D total score from baseline was 14·6 points (SE 0·8) in the BRX90 group compared with 12·1 points (SE 0·8) for the placebo group (difference -2·5 [95% CI -4·5 to -0·5], p=0·0160). In study 1, 19 patients in the BRX60 group and 22 patients in the BRX90 group had adverse events compared with 22 patients in the placebo group. In study 2, 25 patients in the BRX90 group had adverse events compared with 24 patients in the placebo group. The most common treatment-emergent adverse events in the brexanolone groups were headache (n=7 BRX60 group and n=6 BRX90 group vs n=7 placebo group for study 1; n=9 BRX90 group vs n=6 placebo group for study 2), dizziness (n=6 BRX60 group and n=6 BRX90 group vs n=1 placebo group for study 1; n=5 BRX90 group vs n=4 placebo group for study 2), and somnolence (n=7 BRX60 group and n=2 BRX90 group vs n=3 placebo group for study 1; n=4 BRX90 group vs n=2 placebo group for study 2). In study 1, one patient in the BRX60 group had two serious adverse events (suicidal ideation and intentional overdose attempt during follow-up). In study 2, one patient in the BRX90 group had two serious adverse events (altered state of consciousness and syncope), which were considered to be treatment related. INTERPRETATION: Administration of brexanolone injection for post-partum depression resulted in significant and clinically meaningful reductions in HAM-D total score at 60 h compared with placebo, with rapid onset of action and durable treatment response during the study period. Our results suggest that brexanolone injection is a novel therapeutic drug for post-partum depression that has the potential to improve treatment options for women with this disorder. FUNDING: Sage Therapeutics, Inc.