I believe most of us want to do what is best for our health, such as eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep and staying connected with friends and family and I imagine maintaining our health and wellbeing takes another step up on our list of priorities when we think about getting (or are) pregnant. If we smoke, we might consider stopping. If we drink alcohol, we again might consider stopping. However, if we experience a mood imbalance (think anxious and/or depressive symptoms), do we consider stopping any medications we are taking that are currently supporting our experience of more balance in our moods? And what happens if we begin to experience some of these symptoms for the first time during our pregnancy, do we consider taking medications while pregnant or try to tough it out?
It is not uncommon for physicians to encourage women to stop such mood management medications as the side effects can be premature birth and low birth weight, similar to the impacts of smoking and drinking during pregnancy. Where does this leave moms-to-be that are either taking such medications or might experience antenatal anxiety and/or depression? There is research that shows babies have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol when moms experience untreated depression, which increases the risk of that baby developing anxiety, depression, and other mental and behavioral challenges later in life. So it is well known that depression in pregnancy negatively affects both mom’s and her baby’s health, so is there any other option?
A recent pilot randomized controlled research trial shows hope for a non-invasive, non-medication brain stimulation treatment option, specifically transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), also referred to as direct neurofeedback. The results of this trial reflect the feasibility and acceptability of such an option along with encouraging preliminary effectiveness and no serious adverse (i.e., side) effects in this under-treated population. The effects even lasted a month after delivery! The results of this pilot study supported the next step to a definitive random controlled trial to evaluate tDCS for antenatal depression.
If you might be interested in reading more about this treatment option, either for yourself or someone you know that is struggling with such a decision, please click on the link below to learn more: