Pregnancy and delivery while receiving vagus nerve stimulation for the treatment of major depression: a case report

Ann Gen Psychiatry. 2005 Sep 16;4:16. doi: 10.1186/1744-859X-4-16.


Background: Depression during pregnancy can have significant health consequences for the mother and her infant. Antidepressant medications, which pass through the placenta, may increase the risk of low birth weight and preterm delivery. The use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) during pregnancy may induce serotonergic symptoms in the infant after delivery. Antidepressant medications in breast milk may also be passed to an infant. Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) therapy is an effective non-pharmacologic treatment for treatment-resistant depression (TRD), but little information exists regarding the use of VNS therapy during pregnancy.

Case presentation: The patient began receiving VNS therapy for TRD in March 1999. The therapy was effective, producing substantial reductions in depressive symptoms and improvement of function. In 2002, the patient reported that she was pregnant. She continued receiving VNS therapy throughout her pregnancy, labor, and delivery, which enabled the sustained remission of her depression. The pregnancy was uneventful; a healthy daughter was delivered at full term.

Conclusion: In this case, VNS therapy provided effective treatment for TRD during pregnancy and delivery. VNS was safe for the patient and her child.