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J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2016 Jun;25(6):594-8. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2015.5404. Epub 2015 Nov 6.

Mild Depressive Symptoms During the Third Trimester of Pregnancy Are Associated with Disruptions in Daily Rhythms but Not Subjective Sleep Quality.

Simpson W1,2, Frey BN1,3,2, Steiner M1,3,2,4.

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1 McMaster Integrated Neuroscience Discovery and Study (MiNDS), McMaster University , Hamilton, Ontario, Canada .
3 Women's Health Concerns Clinic, St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton , Hamilton, Ontario, Canada .
2 Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neuroscience, McMaster University , Hamilton, Ontario, Canada .
4 Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Toronto , Toronto, Ontario, Canada .



Recent research in major depressive disorder suggests that dysregulation of the circadian system may be a core pathophysiological component. In pregnancy, women often experience significant disruptions in their daily rhythms, including changes in day-to-day schedule and sleep habits. Current evidence suggests that these disruptions in daily rhythms may adversely affect underlying circadian rhythmicity. The purpose of our study was to examine whether subjectively rated daily rhythm disruptions were associated with a greater incidence of depressive symptoms during the third trimester.


Our study was a cross-sectional design, assessing sleep quality, symptoms of depression, and daily rhythm disruptions in 51 pregnant women in their third trimester.


We observed a significant relationship between mild depressive symptoms and disruptions in daily rhythms. While we initially observed a strong correlation between subjective sleep quality and depressive symptoms, this was attenuated after accounting for daily rhythm disruptions. Disruptions in daily social rhythms, eating patterns, and general activity were all significantly associated with depressive symptomatology.


Our findings point to a strong correlation between daily rhythm disruptions and prenatal depressive symptoms. Given that these daily rhythms are known to act as zeitgebers, longitudinal studies examining the directionality of this relationship between circadian rhythms and depressive symptoms during pregnancy are warranted.

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