Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation treats postpartum depression

Brain Stimul. 2010 Jan;3(1):36-41. doi: 10.1016/j.brs.2009.06.001. Epub 2009 Jul 8.


Background: Postpartum depression (PPD) is a prevalent illness, affecting 10-15% of new mothers. PPD is the most common complication of childbirth and is a significant public health concern. It is known to adversely impact maternal-infant bonding, childrearing practices, and can lead to suicide and infanticide. The current treatment approaches to PPD are suboptimal. Many mothers are reluctant to take medication because of concerns about side effects or exposure of their newborn infant through breastfeeding. The specific aims of this study were to (1) examine acute treatment effectiveness, (2) examine response durability, and (3) assess an effect of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) on maternal bonding.

Methods: Nine antidepressant-free women with PPD were given 20 rTMS treatments over 4 weeks (10Hz, 120% motor threshold, left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex). Multiple characteristics were assessed at baseline and throughout treatment. Duration of effect was assessed at 30 days, 3 months and 6 months posttreatment.

Results: Friedman's tests were conducted on Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression-24 item (HRSD-24), Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology-Self-Report (IDS-SR) and Clinical Global Impressions-Severity (CGI-S) scores to compare performances at four time points (baseline, end of Week 2, end of Week 4, and 180-day follow-up). Overall, these results revealed a significant reduction in depressive symptoms by the end of Week 2 of treatment. Analyses yielded a medium effect size (r=0.68) on the primary outcome variable (HRSD-24). Of note, all nine patients remained in treatment for the complete 4 weeks, did not miss any treatment sessions and eight participants achieved remission of symptoms, defined as a HRSD<10 and a CGI-S=1. Analysis of follow-up data indicated robustness of the rTMS treatment over time. At 6-month follow-up, of the eight women that remitted, seven remained in remission without further psychiatric intervention, including the addition of medication and one was lost to follow-up. Results also indicated a significant improvement in bonding.

Conclusions: Our results demonstrate promising results for the use of rTMS in the treatment of PPD. Further randomized, sham-controlled studies need to be completed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression, Postpartum / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pilot Projects
  • Pregnancy
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome