At-home Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation for Depression in Pregnancy

a pregnant woman sits in a bed with one hand resting on her belly and one holding a tablet

Depression in pregnancy is a common and concerning issue that can impact an individual’s well-being and the health of the developing baby. Current options of treating depression include psychotherapy or talk therapy, and antidepressant medication treatments. For some people – especially those with more significant symptoms of depression – therapy can take weeks to months to improve symptoms or might not work on its own – leaving the depressed individual and developing baby to be exposed to the negative effects of depression during that time. Medications can be highly effective, and take effect quickly, however, people do not always wish to take them in pregnancy.

Thankfully mental health research continues to expand to find new treatment options for depression in pregnancy. WCRI’s Dr. Simone Vigod, and her collaborators from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, have launched a randomized controlled trial to investigate if transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) works better than usual non-medication care alone to relieve depression symptoms in pregnant individuals.

tDCS is a non-drug treatment for depression. It is based on the understanding that there are abnormalities in activity in certain regions of the brain when a person is depressed. tDCS uses 2 electrodes placed on the scalp to stimulate brain activity in those areas while a person is awake, sitting down, working with a therapy manual for depression in pregnancy. The tDCS device is small and easy to use, and patients have been trained to use it on their own outside of the hospital or clinic setting.

a woman wearing electronic sensors on her head sits and works on a laptop connected to the sensors

Here is a video of how the at-home tDCS stimulation works.

Dr. Vigod and her team are looking for research participants who are pregnant to be trained to apply tDCS at home and work on a depression in pregnancy therapy workbook. Participants will be able to self-apply the treatment at-home, and a research staff member will be with them over secure video-visit during each treatment.

You may be eligible to participate in the clinical trial if you:

  • ≥18 years of age
  • 12-32 weeks pregnant
  • Have symptoms of depression that are moderate in severity
  • Do not wish to take antidepressant medication to treat the depression symptoms

This study is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

For general information about the trial, or if you are interested in participating, please contact us at the main trial site at Women’s College Hospital:

Anushika Shanmuganathan
Research Assistant 

*For patients receiving obstetrical care at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, you may directly contact