A new study published in Developmental Psychology shows a brief home visiting program Promoting First Relationships®, effectively supports caregiving practices of mothers who received mental health treatment during pregnancy and were at an increased risk of postnatal depression. Women who experience mood disorders after the birth of their child need caregiving support to assure the developing relationship with their baby is not adversely affected by their mental health needs.  According to research, mood disorder treatment alone does not assure the mother-child relationship will develop unimpeded by the mothers’ symptoms. Principal Investigator Dr. Susan Spieker and her colleagues at the University of Washington School of Nursing conducted this innovative study. They found that a brief, 10-week home visiting program delivered soon after the infant’s birth improved the mother’s sensitive and responsive care and understanding of child social and emotional development, relative to a comparison condition, at infant 6 and 12 months. At infant age one year, mothers who received Promoting First Relationships®reported less acting out problem behavior by their infants and continued to demonstrate sensitive and responsive care and understanding of child social and emotional needs. Although  Promoting First Relationships was not designed to improve mothers’ mental health, the mothers in the home visiting program reported trend-level reductions in their depression and anxiety symptoms. Eligible participants had received prenatal care and mental health referrals at a federally qualified health center.  The study team enrolled 254 Spanish- and English-speaking mothers when their infants were 8-12 weeks of age and randomized them to one of two conditions: Promoting First Relationships or the comparison condition, usual care plus individualized resource referrals.

Oxford, M. L., Hash, J. B., Lohr, M. J., Bleil, M. E., Fleming, C. B., Unützer, J., & Spieker, S. J. (in press). Randomized trial of Promoting First Relationships® for new mothers who received community mental health services in pregnancy. Developmental Psychology.