Background: Depression in pregnancy negatively affects maternal-child health. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a non-invasive brain stimulation treatment for depression, has not been evaluated in pregnancy.
Objective: To conduct a pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate tDCS for antenatal depression.
Methods: In this pilot RCT in Toronto, Ontario (October 2014 to December 2016), adult pregnant women 14-32 weeks gestation with major depressive disorder who had declined antidepressant medication were considered for inclusion. Participants were randomly assigned 1:1 to tDCS or sham-control. Active tDCS comprised 30-min sessions of 2 mAmp direct current delivered over the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, 5 days per week, for 3 weeks. Sham was administered similarly, but with current turned off after 30 s. Main outcomes were feasibility, acceptability, and protocol adherence. Maternal Montgomery Asperg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) was measured post-treatment and at 4 and 12 weeks postpartum.
Results: Of 20 women randomized, 16 completed treatment and provided data (124 tDCS, 122 sham sessions). Views of treatment were positive with no serious adverse events. Post-treatment estimated marginal mean MADRS scores were 11.8 (standard error, SE 2.66) for tDCS and 15.4 (SE 2.51) for sham (p = 0.34). At 4 weeks postpartum, 75.0% of tDCS women were remitted versus 12.5% sham-control (p = 0.04).
Conclusions: Results support proceeding to a definitive RCT to evaluate tDCS for antenatal depression. The preliminary efficacy estimates immediately post-treatment and in the postpartum, are encouraging with respect to the potential use of tDCS to improve treatment rates in this population. The trial was registered at: clinical trials.gov (NCT02116127).
Keywords: Antenatal depression; Antidepressive agents; Brain stimulation; Pregnancy; Transcranial direct current stimulation; tDCS.
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