Personalized Integrated Chronotherapy for Perinatal Depression

  • End date
    May 21, 2024
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Rhode Island Hospital
Updated on 21 October 2022
depressive disorder
mood symptoms
psychiatric disorder
depressed mood
structured clinical interview
major depressive disorder
mood disorder
light therapy
mental illness
perinatal depression
affective disorders


Perinatal depression and anxiety are common, serious, and frequently overlapping disorders that increase morbidity and mortality in new mothers (including suicide) and result in poor infant/child outcomes. Current therapies often fail to produce recovery or are poorly tolerated, and many pregnant women seek non-pharmacologic therapy or forgo treatment when non-pharmacologic options are not available. Expectant and new mothers who experience circadian rhythm dysregulation are at increased risk for perinatal depression. This Confirmatory Efficacy Clinical Trial of Non-Pharmacological Interventions for Mental Disorders R01 seeks to test whether a Personalized Integrated Chronotherapy (PIC) intervention can improve treatment outcomes for pregnant patients seeking outpatient treatment for depression, with or without anxiety. PIC is a multicomponent treatment consisting of bright light therapy, sleep phase advance, and sleep stabilization/restriction that targets the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) constructs of circadian rhythms and sleep-wake behavior. To increase sample size and diversity and accelerate recruitment, this study will be performed at 4 sites that differ in clinical structure and that have piloted the PIC intervention. The study will enroll expectant mothers diagnosed with major depressive disorder during 3rd trimester of pregnancy. Participants will be randomized to either: (a) usual care (UC, n = 110) or (b) PIC+UC (n = 110). PIC+UC will have pregnancy and postpartum components and will be administered via a personalized approach tailored to optimize the intervention based on each patient's individual circadian and sleep timing. After a baseline assessment, PIC will be prescribed during 5 dedicated clinical visits: three during 3rd trimester of pregnancy and 2 in the postpartum period. UC will consist of medication and/or psychotherapy. UC will be quantified in both groups to evaluate differences between the PIC+UC and UC groups. Mood will be measured in both groups by blinded clinician interview and patient self-report. The safety profile of the PIC intervention will be assessed by evaluation of side effects/adverse events. Importantly, the study will also examine the target mechanisms by which PIC is hypothesized to work and test the mediation effects of the circadian targets on improvement in mood symptoms. Participants will wear wrist actigraphy/light monitors continuously during weeks 28-40 of pregnancy and postpartum weeks 2-6 to assess light exposure and to estimate sleep timing and duration. Circadian phase (measured with salivary dim light melatonin onset) will be measured at baseline during pregnancy (~30 weeks' gestation), at 36 weeks' gestation, and at postpartum week 6. Exploratory aims will examine associations between infant sleep behavior and maternal circadian rhythms and factors relevant to future dissemination of PIC. If this intervention is effective, perinatal PIC could change clinical practice and have major public health impact due to the high prevalence of perinatal depression and anxiety, the negative effects of mood disorders on mothers and their children, and the need to provide effective, novel, non-pharmacologic therapies for women with perinatal mood disorders.


The purpose of this research study is to collect data on whether adding light therapy and a prescribed sleep schedule to usual treatment for depression can reduce depression and anxiety symptoms during pregnancy and the postpartum. The study is enrolling pregnant woman between the ages of 18 and 40 who have been diagnosed with depression and (possibly) anxiety.

This study takes place from the 3rd trimester of pregnancy to 18 weeks postpartum. Women who take part in this study will be randomly assigned ("randomized") into one of the study treatment groups (1) the "usual care" group (UC); or (2) the group that receives bright light therapy and a prescribed sleep schedule, also called the "Personalized Integrated Chronotherapy" group (PIC). The usual care group will receive medications and/or talk therapy as decided by the woman and her doctor. Women in the integrated chronotherapy group will receive usual care (as above) and will also receive a bright light box to sit with every morning for up to 60 minutes as prescribed by the study doctor. Light will be delivered with a portable, broad-spectrum light box. Both groups will have their sleep and light levels monitored during 3rd trimester of pregnancy (weeks 28-40) and weeks 2-6 and 18 after the baby is born (postpartum weeks 2-6 and 18) Sleep monitoring takes place in the home using a small wrist activity monitor called an "actigraph." Participants will also be asked to provide three saliva sample sets over the course of the study to measure melatonin levels.

In addition to the "Personalized Integrated Chronotherapy" study treatment that will supplement the clinical care as described above, participants will be asked to come in for research study visits.

Condition Depression, Postpartum Depression, Prenatal Disorder, Circadian Dysregulation, Pregnancy Related, Sleep Disturbance
Treatment Personalized Integrated Chronotherapy
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04364646
SponsorRhode Island Hospital
Last Modified on21 October 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

pregnant women, ages 18-45 years with a HAMD score >=14 and a current DSM-5 diagnosis of major depressive disorder as determined with the Current Major Depression Module of the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM disorders (SCID-I/P)

Exclusion Criteria

active psychosis or suicidality contraindicating outpatient treatment as determined by the clinical judgement of the research team and as measured with the B/C module of the SCID-I/P and the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale
bipolar disorder (because sleep restriction can increase risk of conversion to mania)
seizure disorder (because sleep restriction can increase seizure risk)
self report of frequent migraines/headaches precipitated by bright light or sleep deprivation
preexisting eye/skin disorders contraindicating light therapy
use of photosensitizing medications
primary Axis I diagnosis other than MDD (e.g., anorexia nervosa, ADHD)
high risk pregnancy (e.g., conditions requiring mandatory bed rest or complex medical regimens that will interfere with study participation or conditions where poor infant outcomes are anticipated)
starting antidepressants in the 4 weeks prior to enrollment
current employment as night shift worker
Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) score > 8 and/or Drug Abuse Screening Test (DAST) > 1 indicating current alcohol or drug use disorders
women whose infants will not be living in the home or who will have a nighttime caregiver
Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Inventory (PSQI)190 < 5 (i.e., those who report no sleep complaints during 3rd trimester of pregnancy and for whom an intervention targeting sleep might not be indicated)
women who do not speak and read English because PIC research instruments are only available in English at this time. If this RCT shows effectiveness, future work will examine effectiveness in women who speak and read languages other than English
Women who experience fetal loss or stillbirth, as well as mothers whose infants are born before 36 weeks' gestation or have NICU stays > 5 days, will be discontinued from the study but will continue to receive UC
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