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1.  Baby Business: a randomised controlled trial of a universal parenting program that aims to prevent early infant sleep and cry problems and associated parental depression 
BMC Pediatrics  2012;12:13.
Infant crying and sleep problems (e.g. frequent night waking, difficulties settling to sleep) each affect up to 30% of infants and often co-exist. They are costly to manage and associated with adverse outcomes including postnatal depression symptoms, early weaning from breast milk, and later child behaviour problems. Preventing such problems could improve these adverse outcomes and reduce costs to families and the health care system. Anticipatory guidance-i.e. providing parents with information about normal infant sleep and cry patterns, ways to encourage self-settling in infants, and ways to develop feeding and settling routines before the onset of problems-could prevent such problems. This paper outlines the protocol for our study which aims to test an anticipatory guidance approach.
750 families from four Local Government Areas in Melbourne, Australia have been randomised to receive the Baby Business program (intervention group) or usual care (control group) offered by health services. The Baby Business program provides parents with information about infant sleep and crying via a DVD and booklet (mailed soon after birth), telephone consultation (at infant age 6-8 weeks) and parent group session (at infant age 12 weeks). All English speaking parents of healthy newborn infants born at > 32 weeks gestation and referred by their maternal and child health nurse at their first post partum home visit (day 7-10 postpartum), are eligible. The primary outcome is parent report of infant night time sleep as a problem at four months of age and secondary outcomes include parent report of infant daytime sleep or crying as a problem, mean duration of infant sleep and crying/24 hours, parental depression symptoms, parent sleep quality and quantity and health service use. Data will be collected at two weeks (baseline), four months and six months of age. An economic evaluation using a cost-consequences approach will, from a societal perspective, compare costs and health outcomes between the intervention and control groups.
To our knowledge this is the first randomised controlled trial of a program which aims to prevent both infant sleeping and crying problems and associated postnatal depression symptoms. If effective, it could offer an important public health prevention approach to these common, distressing problems.
Trial registration number
PMCID: PMC3292472  PMID: 22309617
2.  Improving infant sleep and maternal mental health: a cluster randomised trial 
Archives of Disease in Childhood  2006;92(11):952-958.
To determine whether a community‐delivered intervention targeting infant sleep problems improves infant sleep and maternal well‐being and to report the costs of this approach to the healthcare system.
Cluster randomised trial.
49 Maternal and Child Health (MCH) centres (clusters) in Melbourne, Australia.
328 mothers reporting an infant sleep problem at 7 months recruited during October–November 2003.
Behavioural strategies delivered over individual structured MCH consultations versus usual care.
Main outcome measures
Maternal report of infant sleep problem, depression symptoms (Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS)), and SF‐12 mental and physical health scores when infants were 10 and 12 months old. Costs included MCH sleep consultations, other healthcare services and intervention costs.
Prevalence of infant sleep problems was lower in the intervention than control group at 10 months (56% vs 68%; adjusted OR 0.58 (95% CI: 0.36 to 0.94)) and 12 months (39% vs 55%; adjusted OR 0.50 (0.31 to 0.80)). EPDS scores indicated less depression at 10 months (adjusted mean difference −1.4 (−2.3 to −0.4) and 12 months (−1.7 (−2.6 to −0.7)). SF‐12 mental health scores indicated better health at 10 months (adjusted mean difference 3.7 (1.5 to 5.8)) and 12 months (3.9 (1.8 to 6.1)). Total mean costs including intervention design, delivery and use of non‐MCH nurse services were £96.93 and £116.79 per intervention and control family, respectively.
Implementing this sleep intervention may lead to health gains for infants and mothers and resource savings for the healthcare system.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trial Registry, number ISRCTN48752250 (registered November 2004).
PMCID: PMC2083609  PMID: 17158146
3.  Effect of behavioural-educational intervention on sleep for primiparous women and their infants in early postpartum: multisite randomised controlled trial 
Objective To evaluate the effectiveness of a behavioural-educational sleep intervention delivered in the early postpartum in improving maternal and infant sleep.
Design Randomised controlled trial.
Setting Postpartum units of two university affiliated hospitals.
Participants 246 primiparous women and their infants randomised while in hospital with an internet based randomisation service to intervention (n=123) or usual care (n=123) groups.
Interventions The behavioural-educational sleep intervention included a 45-60 minute meeting with a nurse to discuss sleep information and strategies to promote maternal and infant sleep, a 20 page booklet with the content discussed, and phone contacts at one, two, and four weeks postpartum to reinforce information, provide support, and problem solve. The usual care group received calls at weeks one, two, and four to maintain contact without provision of advice.
Main outcome measures Primary outcome was maternal nocturnal (9 pm to 9 am) sleep (minutes) and secondary outcome was longest stretch of infant nocturnal sleep (minutes) measured at six and 12 weeks postpartum by actigraphy. Other outcomes measured at six and 12 weeks were number of maternal and infant night time awakenings by actigraphy, fatigue visual analogue scale, general sleep disturbance scale, and Edinburgh postnatal depression scale. Rates of exclusive breast feeding were measured at 12 weeks postpartum only.
Results All women who completed any outcome measures at six or 12 weeks were included in analysis. Sleep outcomes were completed at one or both of six and 12 weeks postpartum for 215 of 246 (87%) women (110/123 intervention and 105/123 usual care). Longitudinal mixed effects model analyses indicated no significant differences between the groups on any of the outcomes. The estimated mean difference in maternal nocturnal sleep between the intervention and usual care groups was 5.97 minutes (95% confidence interval −7.55 to 19.5 minutes, P=0.39). No differences in any outcomes were noted based on the specific nurse delivering the intervention or the number of phone contacts received.
Conclusion A behavioural-educational intervention delivered in the early postpartum, in hospital, and in the first weeks at home, was ineffective in improving maternal and infant sleep or other health outcomes in the first months postpartum.
Trial registration ISRCT No 13501166.
PMCID: PMC3603553  PMID: 23516146
4.  Prevention of Overweight in Infancy ( study: a randomised controlled trial of sleep, food and activity interventions for preventing overweight from birth 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:942.
Rapid weight gain during the first three years of life predicts child and adult obesity, and also later cardiovascular and other morbidities. Cross-sectional studies suggest that infant diet, activity and sleep are linked to excessive weight gain. As intervention for overweight children is difficult, the aim of the Prevention of Overweight in Infancy ( study is to evaluate two primary prevention strategies during late pregnancy and early childhood that could be delivered separately or together as part of normal health care.
This four-arm randomised controlled trial is being conducted with 800 families recruited at booking in the only maternity unit in the city of Dunedin, New Zealand. Mothers are randomised during pregnancy to either a usual care group (7 core contacts with a provider of government funded "Well Child" care over 2 years) or to one of three intervention groups given education and support in addition to "Well Child" care: the Food, Activity and Breastfeeding group which receives 8 extra parent contacts over the first 2 years of life; the Sleep group which receives at least 3 extra parent contacts over the first 6 months of life with a focus on prevention of sleep problems and then active intervention if there is a sleep problem from 6 months to 2 years; or the Combination group which receives all extra contacts. The main outcome measures are conditional weight velocity (0-6, 6-12, 12-24 months) and body mass index z-score at 24 months, with secondary outcomes including sleep and physical activity (parent report, accelerometry), duration of breastfeeding, timing of introduction of solids, diet quality, and measures of family function and wellbeing (parental depression, child mindedness, discipline practices, family quality of life and health care use). This study will contribute to a prospective meta-analysis of early life obesity prevention studies in Australasia.
Infancy is likely to be the most effective time to establish patterns of behaviour around food, activity and sleep that promote healthy child and adult weight. The study will determine the extent to which sleep, food and activity interventions in infancy prevent the development of overweight.
Trial Registration
Clinical Trials NCT00892983
Prospective meta-analysis registered on PROSPERO CRD420111188. Available from
PMCID: PMC3293097  PMID: 22182309
5.  Sleep education during pregnancy for new mothers 
There is a high association between disturbed (poor quality) sleep and depression, which has lead to a consensus that there is a bidirectional relationship between sleep and mood. One time in a woman’s life when sleep is commonly disturbed is during pregnancy and following childbirth. It has been suggested that sleep disturbance is another factor that may contribute to the propensity for women to become depressed in the postpartum period compared to other periods in their life. Post Natal Depression (PND) is common (15.5%) and associated with sleep disturbance, however, no studies have attempted to provide a sleep-focused intervention to pregnant women and assess whether this can improve sleep, and consequently maternal mood post-partum. The primary aim of this research is to determine the efficacy of a brief psychoeducational sleep intervention compared with a control group to improve sleep management, with a view to reduce depressive symptoms in first time mothers.
This randomised controlled trial will recruit 214 first time mothers during the last trimester of their pregnancy. Participants will be randomised to receive either a set of booklets (control group) or a 3hour psychoeducational intervention that focuses on sleep. The primary outcomes of this study are sleep-related, that is sleep quality and sleepiness for ten months following the birth of the baby. The secondary outcome is depressive symptoms. It is hypothesised that participants in the intervention group will have better sleep quality and sleepiness in the postpartum period than women in the control condition. Further, we predict that women who receive the sleep intervention will have lower depression scores postpartum compared with the control group.
This study aims to provide an intervention that will improve maternal sleep in the postpartum period. If sleep can be effectively improved through a brief psychoeducational program, then it may have a protective role in reducing maternal postpartum depressive symptoms.
Registration details
This trial is registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Register under the registration number ACTRN12611000859987
PMCID: PMC3546917  PMID: 23244163
Sleep; New mothers; Postnatal; Postpartum; Depression; Psychoeducation
6.  Early intervention to protect the mother-infant relationship following postnatal depression: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial 
Trials  2014;15(1):385.
At least 13% of mothers experience depression in the first postnatal year, with accompanying feelings of despair and a range of debilitating symptoms. Serious sequelae include disturbances in the mother-infant relationship and poor long-term cognitive and behavioural outcomes for the child. Surprisingly, treatment of maternal symptoms of postnatal depression does not improve the mother-infant relationship for a majority of women. Targeted interventions to improve the mother-infant relationship following postnatal depression are scarce and, of those that exist, the majority are not evaluated in randomised controlled trials. This study aims to evaluate a brief targeted mother-infant intervention, to follow cognitive behavioural therapy treatment of postnatal depression, which has the potential to improve developmental outcomes of children of depressed mothers.
The proposed study is a two-arm randomised controlled trial with follow-up to 6 months. One hundred participants will be recruited via referrals from health professionals including maternal and child health nurses and general practitioners, as well as self-referrals from women who have seen promotional materials for the study. Women who meet inclusion criteria (infant aged <12 months, women 18+ years of age) will complete the Structured Clinical Interview for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV-TR Axis I Disorders. Those with a clinical diagnosis of current major or minor depressive disorder and who do not meet exclusion criteria (that is, currently receiving treatment for depression, significant difficulty with English, medium to high suicide risk, current self-harm, current substance abuse, current post-traumatic stress disorder, current manic/hypomanic episode or psychotic symptoms) will be randomised to receive either a 4-session mother-infant intervention (HUGS: Happiness Understanding Giving and Sharing) or a 4-session attention placebo playgroup (Playtime) following a 12-session postnatal depression group treatment programme. Primary outcome measures are the Parenting Stress Index (self-report measure) and the Parent-child Early Relational Assessment (observational measure coded by a blinded observer). Measurements are taken at baseline, after the postnatal depression programme, post-HUGS/Playtime, and at 6 months post-HUGS/Playtime.
This research addresses the need for specific treatment for mother-infant interactional difficulties following postnatal depression. There is a need to investigate interventions in randomised trials to prevent detrimental effects on child development and make available evidence-based treatments.
Trial registration
Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Register: ACTRN12612001110875. Date Registered: 17 October 2012.
PMCID: PMC4195961  PMID: 25277158
Postnatal depression; Mother-infant difficulties; Randomised controlled trial
7.  Comparative Efficacy of Seven Psychotherapeutic Interventions for Patients with Depression: A Network Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(5):e1001454.
Jürgen Barth and colleagues use network meta-analysis - a novel methodological approach - to reexamine the comparative efficacy of seven psychotherapeutic interventions for adults with depression.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Previous meta-analyses comparing the efficacy of psychotherapeutic interventions for depression were clouded by a limited number of within-study treatment comparisons. This study used network meta-analysis, a novel methodological approach that integrates direct and indirect evidence from randomised controlled studies, to re-examine the comparative efficacy of seven psychotherapeutic interventions for adult depression.
Methods and Findings
We conducted systematic literature searches in PubMed, PsycINFO, and Embase up to November 2012, and identified additional studies through earlier meta-analyses and the references of included studies. We identified 198 studies, including 15,118 adult patients with depression, and coded moderator variables. Each of the seven psychotherapeutic interventions was superior to a waitlist control condition with moderate to large effects (range d = −0.62 to d = −0.92). Relative effects of different psychotherapeutic interventions on depressive symptoms were absent to small (range d = 0.01 to d = −0.30). Interpersonal therapy was significantly more effective than supportive therapy (d = −0.30, 95% credibility interval [CrI] [−0.54 to −0.05]). Moderator analysis showed that patient characteristics had no influence on treatment effects, but identified aspects of study quality and sample size as effect modifiers. Smaller effects were found in studies of at least moderate (Δd = 0.29 [−0.01 to 0.58]; p = 0.063) and large size (Δd = 0.33 [0.08 to 0.61]; p = 0.012) and those that had adequate outcome assessment (Δd = 0.38 [−0.06 to 0.87]; p = 0.100). Stepwise restriction of analyses by sample size showed robust effects for cognitive-behavioural therapy, interpersonal therapy, and problem-solving therapy (all d>0.46) compared to waitlist. Empirical evidence from large studies was unavailable or limited for other psychotherapeutic interventions.
Overall our results are consistent with the notion that different psychotherapeutic interventions for depression have comparable benefits. However, the robustness of the evidence varies considerably between different psychotherapeutic treatments.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Depression is a very common condition. One in six people will experience depression at some time during their life. People who are depressed have recurrent feelings of sadness and hopelessness and might feel that life is no longer worth living. The condition can last for months and often includes physical symptoms such as headaches, sleeping problems, and weight gain or loss. Treatment of depression can include non-drug treatments (psychotherapy), antidepressant drugs, or a combination of the two. Especially for people with mild or intermediate depression, psychotherapy is often considered the preferred first option. Psychotherapy describes a range of different psychotherapies, and a number of established types of psychotherapies have all shown to work for at least some patients.
Why Was This Study Done?
While it is broadly accepted that psychotherapy can help people with depression, the question of which type of psychotherapy works best for most patients remains controversial. While many scientific studies have compared one psychotherapy with control conditions, there have been few studies that directly compared multiple treatments. Without such direct comparisons, it has been difficult to establish the respective merits of the different types of psychotherapy. Taking advantage of a recently developed method called “network meta-analysis,” the authors re-examine the evidence on seven different types of psychotherapy to see how well they have been shown to work and whether some work better than others.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers looked at seven different types of psychotherapy, which they defined as follows. “Interpersonal psychotherapy” is short and highly structured, using a manual to focus on interpersonal issues in depression. “Behavioral activation” raises the awareness of pleasant activities and seeks to increase positive interactions between the patient and his or her environment. “Cognitive behavioral therapy” focuses on a patient's current negative beliefs, evaluates how they affect current and future behavior, and attempts to restructure the beliefs and change the outlook. “Problem solving therapy” aims to define a patient's problems, propose multiple solutions for each problem, and then select, implement, and evaluate the best solution. “Psychodynamic therapy” focuses on past unresolved conflicts and relationships and the impact they have on a patient's current situation. In “social skills therapy,” patients are taught skills that help to build and maintain healthy relationships based on honesty and respect. “Supportive counseling” is a more general therapy that aims to get patients to talk about their experiences and emotions and to offer empathy without suggesting solutions or teaching new skills.
The researchers started with a systematic search of the medical literature for relevant studies. The search identified 198 articles that reported on such clinical trials. The trials included a total of 15,118 patients and compared one of the seven psychotherapies either with another one or with a common “control intervention”. In most cases, the control (no psychotherapy) was deferral of treatment by “wait-listing” patients or continuing “usual care.” With network meta-analysis they were able to summarize the results of all these trials in a meaningful way. They did this by integrating direct comparisons of several psychotherapies within the same trial (where those were available) with indirect comparisons across all trials (using no psychotherapy as a control intervention).
Based on the combined trial results, all seven psychotherapies tested were better than wait-listing or usual care, and the differences were moderate to large, meaning that the average person in the group that received therapy was better off than about half of the patients in the control group. When comparing the therapies with each other, the researchers saw small or no differences, meaning that none of them really stood out as much better or much worse than the others. They also found that the treatments worked equally well for different patient groups with depression (younger or older patients, or mothers who had depression after having given birth). Similarly, they saw no big differences when comparing individual with group therapy, or person-to-person with internet-based interactions between therapist and patient.
However, they did find that smaller and less rigorous studies generally found larger benefits of psychotherapies, and most of the studies included in the analysis were small. Only 36 of the studies had at least 50 patients who received the same treatment. When they restricted their analysis to those studies, the researchers still saw clear benefits of cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and problem-solving therapy, but not for the other four therapies.
What Do these Findings Mean?
Similar to earlier attempts to summarize and make sense of the many study results, this one finds benefits for all of the seven psychotherapies examined, and none of them stood as being much better than some or all others. The scientific support for being beneficial was stronger for some therapies, mostly because they had been tested more often and in larger studies.
Treatments with proven benefits still do not necessarily work for all patients, and which type of psychotherapy might work best for a particular patient likely depends on that individual. So overall this analysis suggests that patients with depression and their doctors should consider psychotherapies and explore which of the different types might be best suited for a particular patient.
The study also points to the need for further research. Whereas depression affects large numbers of people around the world, all of the trials identified were conducted in rich countries and Western societies. Trials in different settings are essential to inform treatment of patients worldwide. In addition, large high-quality studies should further explore the potential benefits of some of therapies for which less support currently exists. Where possible, future studies should compare psychotherapies with one another, because all of them have benefits, and it would not be ethical to withhold such beneficial treatment from patients.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute of Mental Health provides information on all aspects of depression (in English and Spanish); information on psychotherapy includes information on its most common forms
The UK National Health Service Choices website also provides detailed information about depression and includes personal stories about depression
The UK nonprofit Mind provides information on depression, including an explanation of the most common psychotherapies in the UK
MedlinePlus provides links to other resources about depression (in English and Spanish)
The UK nonprofit has a unique database of personal and patient experiences on depression
PMCID: PMC3665892  PMID: 23723742
8.  Treating infant colic with the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri: double blind, placebo controlled randomised trial 
Objective To determine whether the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 reduces crying or fussing in a broad community based sample of breastfed infants and formula fed infants with colic aged less than 3 months.
Design Double blind, placebo controlled randomised trial.
Setting Community based sample (primary and secondary level care centres) in Melbourne, Australia.
Participants 167 breastfed infants or formula fed infants aged less than 3 months meeting Wessel’s criteria for crying or fussing: 85 were randomised to receive probiotic and 82 to receive placebo.
Interventions Oral daily L reuteri (1×108 colony forming units) versus placebo for one month.
Main outcomes measures The primary outcome was daily duration of cry or fuss at 1 month. Secondary outcomes were duration of cry or fuss; number of cry or fuss episodes; sleep duration of infant at 7, 14, and 21 days, and 1 and 6 months; maternal mental health (Edinburgh postnatal depression subscale); family functioning (paediatric quality of life inventory), parent quality adjusted life years (assessment of quality of life) at 1 and 6 months; infant functioning (paediatric quality of life inventory) at 6 months; infant faecal microbiota (microbial diversity, colonisation with Escherichia coli), and calprotectin levels at 1 month. In intention to treat analyses the two groups were compared using regression models adjusted for potential confounders.
Results Of 167 infants randomised from August 2011 to August 2012, 127 (76%) were retained to primary outcome; of these, a subset was analysed for faecal microbial diversity, E coli colonisation, and calprotectin levels. Adherence was high. Mean daily cry or fuss time fell steadily in both groups. At 1 month, the probiotic group cried or fussed 49 minutes more than the placebo group (95% confidence interval 8 to 90 minutes, P=0.02); this mainly reflected more fussing, especially for formula fed infants. The groups were similar on all secondary outcomes. No study related adverse events occurred.
Conclusions L reuteri DSM 17938 did not benefit a community sample of breastfed infants and formula fed infants with colic. These findings differ from previous smaller trials of selected populations and do not support a general recommendation for the use of probiotics to treat colic in infants.
Trial registration Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN95287767.
PMCID: PMC3972414  PMID: 24690625
9.  Impact of a behavioural sleep intervention on symptoms and sleep in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and parental mental health: randomised controlled trial 
Objective To examine whether behavioural strategies designed to improve children’s sleep problems could also improve the symptoms, behaviour, daily functioning, and working memory of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the mental health of their parents.
Design Randomised controlled trial.
Setting 21 general paediatric practices in Victoria, Australia.
Participants 244 children aged 5-12 years with ADHD attending the practices between 2010 and 2012.
Intervention Sleep hygiene practices and standardised behavioural strategies delivered by trained psychologists or trainee paediatricians during two fortnightly consultations and a follow-up telephone call. Children in the control group received usual clinical care.
Main outcome measures At three and six months after randomisation: severity of ADHD symptoms (parent and teacher ADHD rating scale IV—primary outcome), sleep problems (parent reported severity, children’s sleep habits questionnaire, actigraphy), behaviour (strengths and difficulties questionnaire), quality of life (pediatric quality of life inventory 4.0), daily functioning (daily parent rating of evening and morning behavior), working memory (working memory test battery for children, six months only), and parent mental health (depression anxiety stress scales).
Results Intervention compared with control families reported a greater decrease in ADHD symptoms at three and six months (adjusted mean difference for change in symptom severity −2.9, 95% confidence interval −5.5 to −0.3, P=0.03, effect size −0.3, and −3.7, −6.1 to −1.2, P=0.004, effect size −0.4, respectively). Compared with control children, intervention children had fewer moderate-severe sleep problems at three months (56% v 30%; adjusted odds ratio 0.30, 95% confidence interval 0.16 to 0.59; P<0.001) and six months (46% v 34%; 0.58, 0.32 to 1.0; P=0.07). At three months this equated to a reduction in absolute risk of 25.7% (95% confidence interval 14.1% to 37.3%) and an estimated number needed to treat of 3.9. At six months the number needed to treat was 7.8. Approximately a half to one third of the beneficial effect of the intervention on ADHD symptoms was mediated through improved sleep, at three and six months, respectively. Intervention families reported greater improvements in all other child and family outcomes except parental mental health. Teachers reported improved behaviour of the children at three and six months. Working memory (backwards digit recall) was higher in the intervention children compared with control children at six months. Daily sleep duration measured by actigraphy tended to be higher in the intervention children at three months (mean difference 10.9 minutes, 95% confidence interval −19.0 to 40.8 minutes, effect size 0.2) and six months (9.9 minutes, −16.3 to 36.1 minutes, effect size 0.3); however, this measure was only completed by a subset of children (n=54 at three months and n=37 at six months).
Conclusions A brief behavioural sleep intervention modestly improves the severity of ADHD symptoms in a community sample of children with ADHD, most of whom were taking stimulant medications. The intervention also improved the children’s sleep, behaviour, quality of life, and functioning, with most benefits sustained to six months post-intervention. The intervention may be suitable for use in primary and secondary care.
Trial registration Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN68819261.
PMCID: PMC4299655  PMID: 25646809
10.  The effectiveness of video interaction guidance in parents of premature infants: A multicenter randomised controlled trial 
BMC Pediatrics  2012;12:76.
Studies have consistently found a high incidence of neonatal medical problems, premature births and low birth weights in abused and neglected children. One of the explanations proposed for the relation between neonatal problems and adverse parenting is a possible delay or disturbance in the bonding process between the parent and infant. This hypothesis suggests that due to neonatal problems, the development of an affectionate bond between the parent and the infant is impeded. The disruption of an optimal parent-infant bond -on its turn- may predispose to distorted parent-infant interactions and thus facilitate abusive or neglectful behaviours. Video Interaction Guidance (VIG) is expected to promote the bond between parents and newborns and is expected to diminish non-optimal parenting behaviour.
This study is a multi-center randomised controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of Video Interaction Guidance in parents of premature infants. In this study 210 newborn infants with their parents will be included: n = 70 healthy term infants (>37 weeks GA), n = 70 moderate term infants (32–37 weeks GA) which are recruited from maternity wards of 6 general hospitals and n = 70 extremely preterm infants or very low birth weight infants (<32 weeks GA) recruited by the NICU of 2 specialized hospitals. The participating families will be divided into 3 groups: a reference group (i.e. full term infants and their parents, receiving care as usual), a control group (i.e. premature infants and their parents, receiving care as usual) and an intervention group (i.e. premature infants and their parents, receiving VIG). The data will be collected during the first six months after birth using observations of parent-infant interactions, questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. Primary outcomes are the quality of parental bonding and parent-infant interactive behaviour. Parental secondary outcomes are (posttraumatic) stress symptoms, depression, anxiety and feelings of anger and hostility. Infant secondary outcomes are behavioral aspects such as crying, eating, and sleeping.
This is the first prospective study to empirically evaluate the effect of VIG in parents of premature infants. Family recruitment is expected to be completed in January 2012. First results should be available by 2012.
Trail registration number
PMCID: PMC3464160  PMID: 22709245
11.  A cluster randomised controlled trial of a brief couple-focused psychoeducational intervention to prevent common postnatal mental disorders among women: study protocol 
BMJ Open  2014;4(9):e006436.
Postnatal common mental disorders among women are an important public health problem internationally. Interventions to prevent postnatal depression have had limited success. What Were We Thinking (WWWT) is a structured, gender-informed, psychoeducational group programme for parents and their first infant that addresses two modifiable risks to postnatal mental health. This paper describes the protocol for a cluster randomised controlled trial to test the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of WWWT when implemented in usual primary care.
Methods and analysis
48 maternal and child health (MCH) centres from six diverse Local Government Areas, in Victoria, Australia are randomly allocated to the intervention group (usual care plus WWWT) or the control group (usual care). The required sample size is 184 women in each group. English-speaking primiparous women receiving postpartum healthcare in participating MCH centres complete two computer-assisted telephone interviews: baseline at 4 weeks and outcome at 6 months postpartum. Women attending intervention MCH centres are invited to attend WWWT in addition to usual care. The primary outcome is meeting Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV (DSM-IV) diagnostic criteria for major depressive episode; generalised anxiety disorder; panic disorder with or without agoraphobia, agoraphobia with or without panic, social phobia, adult separation anxiety or adjustment disorder with depressed mood, anxiety or mixed depressed mood and anxiety within the past 30 days at 6 months postpartum. Secondary outcomes are self-rated general and emotional health, infant sleep problems, method of infant feeding, quality of mother–infant relationship and intimate partner relationship, and healthcare costs and outcomes.
Ethics and dissemination
Approval to conduct the study has been granted. A comprehensive dissemination plan has been devised.
Trial registration number
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12613000506796.
PMCID: PMC4173107  PMID: 25248497
12.  Melatonin for sleep problems in children with neurodevelopmental disorders: randomised double masked placebo controlled trial 
Objective To assess the effectiveness and safety of melatonin in treating severe sleep problems in children with neurodevelopmental disorders.
Design 12 week double masked randomised placebo controlled phase III trial.
Setting 19 hospitals across England and Wales.
Participants 146 children aged 3 years to 15 years 8 months were randomised. They had a range of neurological and developmental disorders and a severe sleep problem that had not responded to a standardised sleep behaviour advice booklet provided to parents four to six weeks before randomisation. A sleep problem was defined as the child not falling asleep within one hour of lights out or having less than six hours’ continuous sleep.
Interventions Immediate release melatonin or matching placebo capsules administered 45 minutes before the child’s bedtime for a period of 12 weeks. All children started with a 0.5 mg capsule, which was increased through 2 mg, 6 mg, and 12 mg depending on their response to treatment.
Main outcome measures Total sleep time at night after 12 weeks adjusted for baseline recorded in sleep diaries completed by the parent. Secondary outcomes included sleep onset latency, assessments of child behaviour, family functioning, and adverse events. Sleep was measured with diaries and actigraphy.
Results Melatonin increased total sleep time by 22.4 minutes (95% confidence interval 0.5 to 44.3 minutes) measured by sleep diaries (n=110) and 13.3 (−15.5 to 42.2) measured by actigraphy (n=59). Melatonin reduced sleep onset latency measured by sleep diaries (−37.5 minutes, −55.3 to −19.7 minutes) and actigraphy (−45.3 minutes, −68.8 to −21.9 minutes) and was most effective for children with the longest sleep latency (P=0.009). Melatonin was associated with earlier waking times than placebo (29.9 minutes, 13.6 to 46.3 minutes). Child behaviour and family functioning outcomes showed some improvement and favoured use of melatonin. Adverse events were mild and similar between the two groups.
Conclusions Children gained little additional sleep on melatonin; though they fell asleep significantly faster, waking times became earlier. Child behaviour and family functioning outcomes did not significantly improve. Melatonin was tolerable over this three month period. Comparisons with slow release melatonin preparations or melatonin analogues are required.
Trial registration ISRCT No 05534585.
PMCID: PMC3489506  PMID: 23129488
13.  Cluster randomised trials in maternal and child health: implications for power and sample size 
BACKGROUND—Interventions based in the community can be evaluated by randomising clusters, such as general practices, rather than individuals, as in conventional randomised trials. This increases the sample size needed because of intracluster correlation.
AIMS—To estimate sample size requirements for cluster randomised trials of interventions based in general practice directed at common health problems affecting mothers and infants.
METHODS—Data were collected from a pilot trial of the effect of Citizen's Advice Bureau services involving six general practices. Outcome measures included the Edinburgh postnatal depression score, the Warwick child health and morbidity profile, number of visits to the general practitioner, and two questionnaires delivered at the beginning and end of the study. Intracluster correlation coefficients and inflation factors (the ratio of the sample size required for a cluster randomised trial to that required for an individually randomised trial) were calculated.
RESULTS—Intracluster correlation coefficients ranged from 0 (sleeping problems, accidental injury, hospitalisation) to 0.09 (maternal smoking), with most being < 0.04 (for example, maternal depression, breast feeding, general health, minor illness, behavioural problems, and visits to the general practitioner). Assuming 50 cases/practice, cluster randomised trials require sample sizes up to 3 times greater than individually randomised trials for most health outcomes measured.
CONCLUSIONS—These data enable sample sizes to be estimated for cluster randomised trials into a range of maternal and child health outcomes. Using such a design, approximately 40 practices would be sufficient to evaluate the effect of an intervention on maternal depression, sleeping, and behavioural problems, and non-routine visits to the general practitioner.

PMCID: PMC1718186  PMID: 10630921
14.  The contribution of Australian residential early parenting centres to comprehensive mental health care for mothers of infants: evidence from a prospective study 
Australia's public access residential early parenting services provide programs to assist parents who self-refer, to care for their infants and young children. Treatment programs target infant feeding and sleeping difficulties and maternal mental health. There is limited systematic evidence of maternal and infant mental health, psychosocial circumstances or presenting problems, or the effectiveness of the programs. The aim of this study was to contribute to the evidence base about residential early parenting services.
A prospective cohort design was used. A consecutive sample of mothers with infants under one year old recruited during admission to a public access residential early parenting service for a 4 or 5 night stay in Melbourne, Australia was recruited. They completed structured self-report questionnaires, incorporating standardised measures of infant behaviour and maternal mood, during admission and at one and six months after discharge. Changes in infant behaviour and maternal psychological functioning after discharge were observed.
79 women completed the first questionnaire during admission, and 58 provided complete data. Women admitted to the residential program have poor physical and mental health, limited family support, and infants with substantial behaviour difficulties. One month after discharge significant improvements in infant behaviour and maternal psychological functioning were observed (mean (SD) daily crying and fussing during admission = 101.02 (100.8) minutes reduced to 37.7 (55.2) at one month post discharge, p < 0.001; mean (SD) Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale at admission = 11.3 (5.7) reduced to 6.78 (4.44), at one month, p < 0.001) which were sustained at six months. Participant satisfaction with the program was high; 58 (88%) found the support of the nurses and 50 (75%) the social support of other mothers very helpful.
This psycho-educational approach is an effective and acceptable early intervention for parenting difficulties and maternal mood disturbance, and contributes to a system of comprehensive mental health care for mothers of infants.
PMCID: PMC2873569  PMID: 20380739
15.  Development of a universal psycho-educational intervention to prevent common postpartum mental disorders in primiparous women: a multiple method approach 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:499.
Prevention of postnatal mental disorders in women is an important component of comprehensive health service delivery because of the substantial potential benefits for population health. However, diverse approaches to prevention of postnatal depression have had limited success, possibly because anxiety and adjustment disorders are also problematic, mental health problems are multifactorially determined, and because relationships amongst psychosocial risk factors are complex and difficult to modify. The aim of this paper is to describe the development of a novel psycho-educational intervention to prevent postnatal mental disorders in mothers of firstborn infants.
Data from a variety of sources were synthesised: a literature review summarised epidemiological evidence about neglected modifiable risk factors; clinical research evidence identified successful psychosocial treatments for postnatal mental health problems; consultations with clinicians, health professionals, policy makers and consumers informed the proposed program and psychological and health promotion theories underpinned the proposed mechanisms of effect. The intervention was pilot-tested with small groups of mothers and fathers and their first newborn infants.
What Were We Thinking! is a psycho-educational intervention, designed for universal implementation, that addresses heightened learning needs of parents of first newborns. It re-conceptualises mental health problems in mothers of infants as reflecting unmet needs for adaptations in the intimate partner relationship after the birth of a baby, and skills to promote settled infant behaviour. It addresses these two risk factors in half-day seminars, facilitated by trained maternal and child health nurses using non-psychiatric language, in groups of up to five couples and their four-week old infants in primary care. It is designed to promote confidence and reduce mental disorders by providing skills in sustainable sleep and settling strategies, and the re-negotiation of the unpaid household workload in non-confrontational ways. Materials include a Facilitators' Handbook, creatively designed worksheets for use in seminars, and a book for couples to take home for reference. A website provides an alternative means of access to the intervention.
What Were We Thinking! is a postnatal mental health intervention which has the potential to contribute to psychologically-informed routine primary postnatal health care and prevent common mental disorders in women.
PMCID: PMC2931475  PMID: 20718991
16.  Economic evaluation of strategies for managing crying and sleeping problems 
AIMS—To estimate the financial cost to the NHS of infant crying and sleeping problems in the first 12 weeks of age and to assess the cost effectiveness of behavioural and educational interventions aimed at reducing infant crying and sleeping problems relative to usual services.
METHODS—A cost burden analysis and cost effectiveness analysis were conducted using data from the Crying Or Sleeping Infants (COSI) Study, a three armed prospective randomised controlled trial that randomly allocated 610 mothers to a behavioural intervention (n = 205), an educational intervention (n = 202), or existing services (control, n = 203). Main outcome measures were annual total cost to the NHS of infant crying and sleeping problems in the first 12 weeks, and incremental cost per interruption free night gained for behavioural and educational interventions relative to control.
RESULTS—The annual total cost to the NHS of infant crying and sleeping problems in the first 12 weeks was £65 million (US$104 million). Incremental costs per interruption free night gained for the behavioural intervention relative to control were £0.56 (US$0.92). For the educational intervention relative to control they were £4.13 (US$6.80).
CONCLUSIONS—The annual total cost to the NHS of infant crying and sleeping problems is substantial. In the cost effectiveness analysis, the behavioural intervention incurred a small additional cost and produced a small significant benefit at 11 and 12 weeks of age. The educational intervention incurred a small additional cost without producing a significant benefit.

PMCID: PMC1718606  PMID: 11124777
17.  Dose–response effects of exercise training on the subjective sleep quality of postmenopausal women: exploratory analyses of a randomised controlled trial 
BMJ Open  2012;2(4):e001044.
To investigate whether a dose–response relationship existed between exercise and subjective sleep quality in postmenopausal women. This objective represents a post hoc assessment that was not previously considered.
Parallel-group randomised controlled trial.
Clinical exercise physiology laboratory in Dallas, Texas.
437 sedentary overweight/obese postmenopausal women.
Participants were randomised to one of four treatments, each of 6 months of duration: a non-exercise control treatment (n=92) or one of three dosages of moderate-intensity exercise (50% of VO2peak), designed to meet 50% (n=151), 100% (n=99) or 150% (n=95) of the National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Panel physical activity recommendations. Exercise dosages were structured to elicit energy expenditures of 4, 8 or 12 kilocalories per kilogram of body weight per week (KKW), respectively. Analyses were intent to treat.
Primary outcome measures
Continuous scores and odds of having significant sleep disturbance, as assessed by the Sleep Problems Index from the 6-item Medical Outcomes Study Sleep Scale. Outcome assessors were blinded to participant randomisation assignment.
Change in the Medical Outcomes Study Sleep Problems Index score at 6 months significantly differed by treatment group (control: −2.09 (95% CI −4.58 to 0.40), 4 KKW: −3.93 (−5.87 to −1.99), 8 KKW: −4.06 (−6.45 to −1.67), 12 KKW: −6.22 (−8.68 to −3.77); p=0.04), with a significant dose–response trend observed (p=0.02). Exercise training participants had lower odds of having significant sleep disturbance at postintervention compared with control (4 KKW: OR 0.37 (95% CI 0.19 to 0.73), 8 KKW: 0.36 (0.17 to 0.77), 12 KKW: 0.34 (0.16 to 0.72)). The magnitude of weight loss did not differ between treatment conditions. Improvements in sleep quality were not related to changes in body weight, resting parasympathetic control or cardiorespiratory fitness.
Exercise training induced significant improvement in subjective sleep quality in postmenopausal women, with even a low dose of exercise resulting in greatly reduced odds of having significant sleep disturbance.
Trial registration number identifier: NCT00011193.
Article summary
Article focus
Sleep disturbance is prevalent in postmenopausal women, with 35%–60% reporting significant sleep problems.
Effective, safe and easily available treatment options for disturbed sleep in postmenopausal women are lacking.
There has been equivocal evidence as to whether exercise improves sleep in postmenopausal women, though possible dose–response effects have been noted.
Key messages
Exercise resulted in significant improvement in subjective sleep quality in postmenopausal women, with reduced odds of having sleep disturbance at postintervention with even 50% of the recommended dose of exercise for adults.
The effects of exercise on sleep quality were independent of changes in body weight, resting parasympathetic control or cardiorespiratory fitness.
Strengths and limitations of this study
The study constitutes the largest randomised controlled trial on exercise and sleep quality, using a structured dose of exercise and a validated measure of sleep quality.
Only self-reported sleep was assessed; objective measurement of sleep, with either actigraphy or polysomnography, was not conducted.
Despite the high prevalence of sleep disturbance in the sample, participants were not selected on the basis of sleep complaints.
PMCID: PMC3400065  PMID: 22798253
18.  Prenatal Mood Disturbance Predicts Sleep Problems in Infancy and Toddlerhood 
Early human development  2006;83(7):451-458.
Experimental animal data link prenatal stress with sleep disturbance in offspring, but the link in humans is unclear.
To investigate the link between prenatal maternal anxiety and depression and infant sleep disturbance from 6 to 30 months of age.
Study Design
Longitudinal prospective study of a large birth cohort from pregnancy to 30 months. Questionnaire measures of anxiety and depression were completed by mothers at 18 and 32 weeks gestation and at 8 weeks and 8 months postpartum
The ALSPAC cohort, a prospective community study of women in the UK who have been followed since pregnancy.
Outcome measures
Measures of total sleep time, number of awakenings, and broadly defined sleep problems were available on children at ages 6, 18, and 30 months.
Reliable measures of total sleep time, nighttime awakenings, and sleep problems were identified at 6, 18, and 30 months. Higher levels of prenatal maternal anxiety and depression predicted more sleep problems at 18 and 30 months, after controlling for postnatal mood and obstetric and psychosocial covariates; the association was not restricted to clinical extremes. No link with total sleep time was observed.
Mood disturbance in pregnancy has persisting effects on sleep problems in the child, a finding that is consistent with experimental animal research. The findings add to a growing literature showing that maternal prenatal stress, anxiety, and depression may have lasting effects on child development.
PMCID: PMC2853892  PMID: 17008033
prenatal anxiety and depression; sleep disturbance; community study
19.  Maternal depression and infant growth and development in British Pakistani women: a cohort study 
BMJ Open  2012;2(2):e000523.
Perinatal depression has been found to be a strong and independent risk factor for poor child growth and development in low-income South Asian populations. The authors aimed to study if there was a similar association in first and second-generation British women of Pakistani origin.
A prospective cohort study.
The study was conducted in the North-West of England, in areas with high density of Pakistani-origin population. The subjects were recruited from Central Manchester Hospital in the City of Manchester and East Lancashire Hospital in Lancashire.
704 physically healthy women were assessed in two phases (screening and detailed assessment of high scorers and a proportion of low scorers) during the third trimester of pregnancy to obtain at birth a cohort of 63 infants of depressed mothers and 173 infants of psychologically well mothers.
Primary and secondary outcome measures
All infants were weighed and measured at birth and 6 months, and their development was assessed using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development–Third Edition.
There was no difference in the birth weight or weight and height at 6 months of infants of depressed mothers versus infants of psychologically well mothers. The only significant difference between the two groups was in the infants' adaptive behaviour; infants of depressed mothers scored significantly lower than those of psychologically well mothers (mean difference 4.6, t=2.81, df 195, p=0.006). The associations remained significant after adjustment for socio-demographic factors by multivariate analyses.
Prenatal depression is not associated with impaired growth in this sample of British Pakistani women. There is, however, an association of prenatal depression with parent-reported problems in the infants' adaptive behaviour. Further research is needed to understand various pathways through which maternal depression affects infant outcomes in low- and high-income settings.
Article summary
Article focus
In South Asian countries, maternal depression has been identified as a strong risk factor for undernutrition and stunted growth in infants.
Maternal depression has also been associated with insecure attachment styles and deficiencies in cognitive development.
In a longitudinal cohort design, this article examines the potential association between prenatal maternal depression and infant development, in a sample of British women of Pakistani origin.
Key messages
The present sample of British Pakistani women show lower rates of depression as compared with the women living in Pakistan.
Prenatal depression was not found to be associated with infant undernutrition or stunted growth. On the other hand, there was a significant association between prenatal depression and the infant's adaptive behaviour, as measured by Bayley Scales of Infant Development–Third Edition.
Strengths and limitations of this study
The longitudinal prospective cohort design employed in this study was well suited to address the research question. Engaging the prospective sample through culturally appropriate channels and informants helped to achieve high follow-up rates.
Due to resource and time limitations, the required sample size for the group of depressed women could not be achieved.
PMCID: PMC3312074  PMID: 22436136
20.  Innovative psycho-educational program to prevent common postpartum mental disorders in primiparous women: a before and after controlled study 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:432.
Universal interventions to prevent postnatal mental disorders in women have had limited success, perhaps because they were insufficiently theorised, not gender-informed and overlooked relevant risk factors. This study aimed to determine whether an innovative brief psycho-educational program for mothers, fathers and first newborns, which addressed salient learning needs about infant behaviour management and adjustment tasks in the intimate partner relationship, prevented postpartum mental health problems in primiparous women.
A before and after controlled study was conducted in primary care in seven local government areas in Victoria, Australia. English-speaking couples with one-week old infants were invited consecutively to participate by the maternal and child health nurse at the universal first home visit. Two groups were recruited and followed sequentially: both completed telephone interviews at four weeks and six months postpartum and received standard health care. Intervention group participants were also invited to attend a half-day program with up to five couples and one month old infants, facilitated by trained, supervised nurses. The main outcome was any Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) diagnosis of Depression or Anxiety or Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood, Anxiety, or Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood in the first six months postpartum. Factors associated with the outcome were established by logistic regression controlling for potential confounders and analysis was by intention to treat.
In total 399/646 (62%) women were recruited; 210 received only standard care and 189 were also offered the intervention; 364 (91%) were retained at follow up six months postpartum. In women without a psychiatric history (232/364; 64%), 36/125 (29%) were diagnosed with Depression or Anxiety or Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood, Anxiety, or Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood in the control group, compared with 16/107 (15%) in the intervention group. In those without a psychiatric history, the adjusted odds ratio for diagnosis of a common postpartum mental disorder was 0.43 (95% CI 0.21, 0.89) in the intervention group compared to the control group.
A universal, brief psycho-educational group program for English-speaking first time parents and babies in primary care reduces de novo postpartum mental disorders in women. A universal approach supplemented by an additional program may improve effectiveness for women with a psychiatric history.
Trial registration
ACTRN 12605000567628.
PMCID: PMC2920889  PMID: 20653934
21.  Improving quality of mother-infant relationship and infant attachment in socioeconomically deprived community in South Africa: randomised controlled trial 
Objective To assess the efficacy of an intervention designed to improve the mother-infant relationship and security of infant attachment in a South African peri-urban settlement with marked adverse socioeconomic circumstances.
Design Randomised controlled trial.
Setting Khayelitsha, a peri-urban settlement in South Africa.
Participants 449 pregnant women.
Interventions The intervention was delivered from late pregnancy and for six months postpartum. Women were visited in their homes by previously untrained lay community workers who provided support and guidance in parenting. The purpose of the intervention was to promote sensitive and responsive parenting and secure infant attachment to the mother. Women in the control group received no therapeutic input from the research team.
Main outcome measures Primary outcomes: quality of mother-infant interactions at six and 12 months postpartum; infant attachment security at 18 months. Secondary outcome: maternal depression at six and 12 months.
Results The intervention was associated with significant benefit to the mother-infant relationship. At both six and 12 months, compared with control mothers, mothers in the intervention group were significantly more sensitive (6 months: mean difference=0.77 (SD 0.37), t=2.10, P<0.05, d=0.24; 12 months: mean difference=0.42 (0.18), t=−2.04 , P<0.05, d=0.26) and less intrusive (6 months: mean difference=0.68 (0.36), t=2.28, P<0.05, d=0.26; 12 months: mean difference=−1.76 (0.86), t=2.28 , P<0.05, d=0.24) in their interactions with their infants. The intervention was also associated with a higher rate of secure infant attachments at 18 months (116/156 (74%) v 102/162 (63%); Wald=4.74, odds ratio=1.70, P<0.05). Although the prevalence of maternal depressive disorder was not significantly reduced, the intervention had a benefit in terms of maternal depressed mood at six months (z=2.05, P=0.04) on the Edinburgh postnatal depression scale).
Conclusions The intervention, delivered by local lay women, had a significant positive impact on the quality of the mother-infant relationship and on security of infant attachment, factors known to predict favourable child development. If these effects persist, and if they are replicated, this intervention holds considerable promise for use in the developing world.
Trial registration Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN25664149.
PMCID: PMC2669116  PMID: 19366752
22.  Reducing postnatal depression, anxiety and stress using an infant sleep intervention 
BMJ Open  2012;2(5):e001662.
To examine the psychological well-being of mothers following participation in a behavioural modification programme previously shown to improve infant sleep.
Design, setting and participants
A 45 min consultation with either a general practitioner (GP) or trained nurse providing verbal and written information describing sleep physiology in infants and strategies to improve infant sleep. Eighty mothers of infants 6−12 months of age with established infant sleep problems at a single general practice, Adelaide, South Australia.
Main outcome measures
The Depression Anxiety Stress Scale 21 (DASS21) immediately prior to the first consultation and again at follow-up approximately 3 weeks later. The number of infant nocturnal awakenings requiring parental support was also reported by mothers on both occasions.
All measures of maternal well-being and infant nocturnal awakenings improved significantly. The mean number of maximum nocturnal awakenings decreased from 5.0 to 0.5 (mean difference 4.4, 95% CI 3.4 to 5.5). All measures of DASS21 improved significantly. The mean total DASS21 decreased from 29.1 to 14.9 (mean decrease 14.2, 95% CI 10.2 to 18.2); mean depression decreased from 7.9 to 2.8 (mean difference 5.2, 95% CI 3.7 to 6.7); mean anxiety decreased from 4.6 to 2.6 (mean difference 2.0, 95% CI 0.7 to 3.2); mean stress decreased from 16.6 to 9.5 (mean difference 7.0, 95% CI 5.1 to 9.0). The proportion of mothers assessed as having any degree of depression decreased by 85% from 26/80 (32.5%) to 4/80 (5%).
The number of nocturnal awakenings requiring parental support among infants aged 6−12 months significantly decreased following a single consultation on infant sleep physiology and teaching behavioural strategies to improve sleep. Significant improvements in maternal stress, anxiety and depression were also observed.
PMCID: PMC3467591  PMID: 22983788
Mental Health; Sleep Medicine
23.  Acupuncture and Counselling for Depression in Primary Care: A Randomised Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(9):e1001518.
In a randomized controlled trial, Hugh MacPherson and colleagues investigate the effectiveness of acupuncture and counseling compared with usual care alone for the treatment of depression symptoms in primary care settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Depression is a significant cause of morbidity. Many patients have communicated an interest in non-pharmacological therapies to their general practitioners. Systematic reviews of acupuncture and counselling for depression in primary care have identified limited evidence. The aim of this study was to evaluate acupuncture versus usual care and counselling versus usual care for patients who continue to experience depression in primary care.
Methods and Findings
In a randomised controlled trial, 755 patients with depression (Beck Depression Inventory BDI-II score ≥20) were recruited from 27 primary care practices in the North of England. Patients were randomised to one of three arms using a ratio of 2∶2∶1 to acupuncture (302), counselling (302), and usual care alone (151). The primary outcome was the difference in mean Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) scores at 3 months with secondary analyses over 12 months follow-up. Analysis was by intention-to-treat.
PHQ-9 data were available for 614 patients at 3 months and 572 patients at 12 months. Patients attended a mean of ten sessions for acupuncture and nine sessions for counselling. Compared to usual care, there was a statistically significant reduction in mean PHQ-9 depression scores at 3 months for acupuncture (−2.46, 95% CI −3.72 to −1.21) and counselling (−1.73, 95% CI −3.00 to −0.45), and over 12 months for acupuncture (−1.55, 95% CI −2.41 to −0.70) and counselling (−1.50, 95% CI −2.43 to −0.58). Differences between acupuncture and counselling were not significant. In terms of limitations, the trial was not designed to separate out specific from non-specific effects. No serious treatment-related adverse events were reported.
In this randomised controlled trial of acupuncture and counselling for patients presenting with depression, after having consulted their general practitioner in primary care, both interventions were associated with significantly reduced depression at 3 months when compared to usual care alone.
Trial Registration ISRCTN63787732
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Depression–overwhelming sadness and hopelessness–is responsible for a substantial proportion of the global disease burden and is a major cause of suicide. It affects more than 350 million people worldwide and about one in six people will have an episode of depression during their lifetime. Depression is different from everyday mood fluctuations. For people who are clinically depressed, feelings of severe sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, and worthlessness can last for months and years. Affected individuals lose interest in activities they used to enjoy and sometimes have physical symptoms such as disturbed sleep. Clinicians can diagnose depression and determine its severity by asking patients to complete a questionnaire (for example, the Beck Depression Inventory [BDI-II] or the Patient Health Questionnaire 9 [PHQ-9]) about their feelings and symptoms. The answer to each question is given a score and the total score from the questionnaire (“depression rating scale”) indicates the severity of depression. Antidepressant drugs are usually the front-line treatment for depression in primary care.
Why Was This Study Done?
Unfortunately, antidepressants don't work for more than half of patients. Moreover, many patients would like to be offered non-pharmacological treatment options for depression such as acupuncture–a therapy originating from China in which fine needles are inserted into the skin at specific points of the body–and counseling–a “talking therapy” that provides patients with a safe, non-judgmental place to express feelings and emotions and that helps them recognize their capacity for growth and fulfillment. However, it is unclear whether either of these treatments is effective in depression. In this pragmatic randomized controlled trial, the researchers investigate the clinical effectiveness of acupuncture or counseling in patients with depression compared to usual care in primary care in northern England. A randomized controlled trial compares outcomes in groups of patients who are assigned to different interventions through the play of chance. A pragmatic trial asks whether the intervention works under real-life conditions. Patient selection reflects routine practice and some aspects of the intervention are left to the discretion of clinician, By contrast, an explanatory trial asks whether an intervention works under ideal conditions and involves a strict protocol for patient selection and treatment.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited 755 patients who had consulted their primary health care provider about depression within the past 5 years and who had a score of more than 20 on the BDI-II–a score that is defined as moderate-to-severe depression on this depression rating scale–at the start of the study. Patients were randomized to receive up to 12 weekly sessions of acupuncture plus usual care (302 patients), up to 12 weekly sessions of counseling plus usual care (302 patients), or usual care alone (151 patients). Both the acupuncture protocol and the counseling protocols allowed for some individualization of treatment. Usual care, including antidepressants, was available according to need and monitored in all three groups. Compared to usual care alone, there was a significant reduction (a reduction unlikely to have occurred by chance) in the average PHQ-9 scores at both 3 and 6 months for both the acupuncture and counseling interventions. The difference between the mean PHQ-9 score for acupuncture and counseling was not significant. At 9 months and 12 months, because of improvements in the PHQ-9 scores in the usual care group, acupuncture and counseling were no longer significantly better than usual care.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that, compared to usual care alone, both acupuncture and counseling when provided alongside usual care provided significant benefits at 3 months in primary care to patients with recurring depression. Because this trial was a pragmatic trial, these findings cannot indicate which aspects of acupuncture and counseling are likely to be most or least beneficial. Nevertheless they do provide an estimate of the overall effects of these complex interventions, an estimate that is of most interest to patients, practitioners, and health care providers. Moreover, because this trial only considers the effect of these interventions on patients with moderate-to-severe depression as classified by the BDI-II; it provides no information about the effectiveness of acupuncture or counseling compared to usual care for patients with mild depression. Importantly, however, these findings suggest that further research into optimal treatment regimens for the treatment of depression with acupuncture and counseling is merited.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute of Mental Health provides information on all aspects of depression (in English and Spanish)
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides detailed information about depression, including personal stories about depression, and information on counseling and acupuncture
The UK charity Mind provides information on depression, on talking treatments, and on complementary and alternative therapies including acupuncture; Mind also includes personal stories about depression on its website
More personal stories about depression are available from Healthtalkonline
MedlinePlus provides links to other resources about depression and about acupuncture (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC3782410  PMID: 24086114
24.  Increased Cerebral Blood Flow Velocity in Children with Mild Sleep-Disordered Breathing 
Pediatrics  2006;118(4):e1100-e1108.
Sleep-disordered breathing describes a spectrum of upper airway obstruction in sleep from simple primary snoring, estimated to affect 10% of preschool children, to the syndrome of obstructive sleep apnea. Emerging evidence has challenged previous assumptions that primary snoring is benign. A recent report identified reduced attention and higher levels of social problems and anxiety/depressive symptoms in snoring children compared with controls. Uncertainty persists regarding clinical thresholds for medical or surgical intervention in sleep-disordered breathing, underlining the need to better understand the pathophysiology of this condition. Adults with sleep-disordered breathing have an increased risk of cerebrovascular disease independent of atherosclerotic risk factors. There has been little focus on cerebrovascular function in children with sleep-disordered breathing, although this would seem an important line of investigation, because studies have identified abnormalities of the systemic vasculature. Raised cerebral blood flow velocities on transcranial Doppler, compatible with raised blood flow and/or vascular narrowing, are associated with neuropsychological deficits in children with sickle cell disease, a condition in which sleep-disordered breathing is common. We hypothesized that there would be cerebral blood flow velocity differences in sleep-disordered breathing children without sickle cell disease that might contribute to the association with neuropsychological deficits.
Thirty-one snoring children aged 3 to 7 years were recruited from adenotonsillectomy waiting lists, and 17 control children were identified through a local Sunday school or as siblings of cases. Children with craniofacial abnormalities, neuromuscular disorders, moderate or severe learning disabilities, chronic respiratory/cardiac conditions, or allergic rhinitis were excluded. Severity of sleep-disordered breathing in snoring children was categorized by attended polysomnography. Weight, height, and head circumference were measured in all of the children. BMI and occipitofrontal circumference z scores were computed. Resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure were obtained. Both sleep-disordered breathing children and the age- and BMI-similar controls were assessed using the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function (BRIEF), Neuropsychological Test Battery for Children (NEPSY) visual attention and visuomotor integration, and IQ assessment (Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence Version III). Transcranial Doppler was performed using a TL2-64b 2-MHz pulsed Doppler device between 2 PM and 7 PM in all of the patients and the majority of controls while awake. Time-averaged mean of the maximal cerebral blood flow velocities was measured in the left and right middle cerebral artery and the higher used for analysis.
Twenty-one snoring children had an apnea/hypopnea index <5, consistent with mild sleep-disordered breathing below the conventional threshold for surgical intervention. Compared with 17 nonsnoring controls, these children had significantly raised middle cerebral artery blood flow velocities. There was no correlation between cerebral blood flow velocities and BMI or systolic or diastolic blood pressure indices. Exploratory analyses did not reveal any significant associations with apnea/hypopnea index, apnea index, hypopnea index, mean pulse oxygen saturation, lowest pulse oxygen saturation, accumulated time at pulse oxygen saturation <90%, or respiratory arousals when examined in separate bivariate correlations or in aggregate when entered simultaneously. Similarly, there was no significant association between cerebral blood flow velocities and parental estimation of child’s exposure to sleep-disordered breathing. However, it is important to note that whereas the sleep-disordered breathing group did not exhibit significant hypoxia at the time of study, it was unclear to what extent this may have been a feature of their sleep-disordered breathing in the past. IQ measures were in the average range and comparable between groups. Measures of processing speed and visual attention were significantly lower in sleep-disordered breathing children compared with controls, although within the average range. There were similar group differences in parental-reported executive function behavior. Although there were no direct correlations, adjusting for cerebral blood flow velocities eliminated significant group differences between processing speed and visual attention and decreased the significance of differences in Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function scores, suggesting that cerebral hemodynamic factors contribute to the relationship between mild sleep-disordered breathing and these outcome measures.
Cerebral blood flow velocities measured by noninvasive transcranial Doppler provide evidence for increased cerebral blood flow and/or vascular narrowing in childhood sleep-disordered breathing; the relationship with neuropsychological deficits requires further exploration. A number of physiologic changes might alter cerebral blood flow and/or vessel diameter and, therefore, affect cerebral blood flow velocities. We were able to explore potential confounding influences of obesity and hypertension, neither of which explained our findings. Second, although cerebral blood flow velocities increase with increasing partial pressure of carbon dioxide and hypoxia, it is unlikely that the observed differences could be accounted for by arterial blood gas tensions, because all of the children in the study were healthy, with no cardiorespiratory disease, other than sleep-disordered breathing in the snoring group. Although arterial partial pressure of oxygen and partial pressure of carbon dioxide were not monitored during cerebral blood flow velocity measurement, assessment was undertaken during the afternoon/early evening when the child was awake, and all of the sleep-disordered breathing children had normal resting oxyhemoglobin saturation at the outset of their subsequent sleep studies that day. Finally, there is an inverse linear relationship between cerebral blood flow and hematocrit in adults, and it is known that iron-deficient erythropoiesis is associated with chronic infection, such as recurrent tonsillitis, a clinical feature of many of the snoring children in the study. Preoperative full blood counts were not performed routinely in these children, and, therefore, it was not possible to exclude anemia as a cause of increased cerebral blood flow velocity in the sleep-disordered breathing group. However, hemoglobin levels were obtained in 4 children, 2 of whom had borderline low levels (10.9 and 10.2 g/dL). Although there was no apparent relationship with cerebral blood flow velocity in these children (cerebral blood flow velocity values of 131 and 130 cm/second compared with 130 and 137 cm/second in the 2 children with normal hemoglobin levels), this requires verification. It is of particular interest that our data suggest a relationship among snoring, increased cerebral blood flow velocities and indices of cognition (processing speed and visual attention) and perhaps behavioral (Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function) function. This finding is preliminary: a causal relationship is not established, and the physiologic mechanisms underlying such a relationship are not clear. Prospective studies that quantify cumulative exposure to the physiologic consequences of sleep-disordered breathing, such as hypoxia, would be informative.
PMCID: PMC1995426  PMID: 17015501
sleep disordered breathing; cerebral blood flow; transcranial Doppler; executive function; neuropsychological function
25.  Fragmented maternal sleep is more strongly correlated with depressive symptoms than infant temperament at three months postpartum 
Archives of Women's Mental Health  2009;12(4):229-237.
To determine the contribution of infant temperament to the relationship between maternal sleep disturbance and depressive symptoms. Utilizing a repeated measures design, 112 couples recruited from childbirth education classes were assessed in third trimester and postpartum. Instruments included Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale, General Sleep Disturbance Scale, wrist actigraphy, and an investigator-developed tool to assess infant temperament completed by mothers and fathers. Regardless of infant temperament, mothers who slept < 4 h between midnight and 6 am and mothers who napped < 60 min during the day were at increased risk for depression at three months postpartum. Infant temperament was associated with maternal sleep but was not a significant predictor of depressive symptoms after controlling for other contextual factors. Postpartum clinical visits should include questions about maternal sleep so interventions can be directed toward sufficient sleep to minimize risk of postpartum depression.
PMCID: PMC2700868  PMID: 19396527
Pregnancy; Postpartum depression; Infant; Temperament; Wrist actigraphy; Sleep; Mothers; Fathers

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