Mothers and Babies Efficacy

Three randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have provided evidence of the efficacy of the MB. These RCTs have demonstrated that the MB, when implemented in a group format and led by a trained mental health professional (e.g., clinical social workers), leads to fewer new cases of clinical depression, reductions in depressive symptoms, and improved mood management. One of these RCTs was done with low-income Latinas receiving prenatal care at a FQHC. The most recent RCT was conducted with women enrolled in home visiting programs. Effectiveness trials are still underway examining the MB Group intervention in WIC programs and MB 1-on-1 in home visiting programs around the country that include: Healthy Start, Parents as Teachers, Nurse-Family Partnership, and Healthy Families.

In addition to the consistent positive feedback this program has received from participants and facilitators alike, Mothers & Babies  was recently highlighted by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force as effective in preventing postpartum depression. See the article detailing their recommendation here:

An editorial by the Program P.I. Dr. Darius Tandon et al to accompany the Task Force recommendations is here:
PLUS coverage of these recommendations in a recent New York Times article:


Determining the Effectiveness of the Mothers and Babies 1-on-1 Intervention

While there is strong evidence that the group version of Mothers and Babies improves maternal mental health outcomes, not all agencies serving pregnant women and new mothers can easily implement group-based interventions. For example, geographic distance, transportation, and childcare all may be barriers to successful Mothers and Babies groups. In an attempt to facilitate the widespread adoption of the Mothers and Babies content, study investigators have translated the content of the Mothers and Babies group version into a "1-on-1" version, consisting of 12 sessions of approximately 15-20 minutes in length.

Currently, the Northwestern Mothers and Babies research team is conducting a study aimed at establishing the efficacy of the Mothers and Babies 1-on-1 version. The long-term goal of this study is to provide home visiting programs and other programs serving perinatal women with an easy-to-implement intervention that is effective in preventing the onset of major depression and worsening of depressive symptoms among low-income women enrolled in HV programs. The short-term objectives of this study are to determine:

  1. Acceptability of MB 1-on-1
  2. Feasibility of implementing MB 1-on-1
  3. The effect of MB 1-on-1 on maternal mental health and quality of life outcomes

Mothers and Babies Supervision Study

Thirty-seven home visiting programs in Illinois were trained on the 12-session Mothers and Babies 1-on-1 version during the spring of 2015. As interventions move to scale there is increased burden on program developers to provide the supervision necessary for maintaining fidelity to the model, as well as providing support for staff implementing the intervention for the first time. Thus, alternative approaches to providing supervision should be explored to determine a) what supervision approaches are feasible and acceptable to implement and b) whether different supervision approaches result in variations in intervention delivery and client outcomes. The specific aims of this project are:

  1. To assess HV programs’ acceptability of different supervision models during MB implementation
  2. To determine whether different supervision models are related to MB intervention implementation fidelity.
  3. To examine whether different supervision models are related to client mental health outcomes and uptake of MB skills.

San Francisco Trial Findings

Prevention of Postpartum Depression in Low-Income Women: Development of the Mamás y Bebés/Mothers and Babies Course

The intervention was well received by the participants and implementation of a randomized trial appeared quite feasible as indicated by the follow-up rate of 91% at 12 months. Major Depressive Episode incidence rates of 14% for the Intervention condition versus 25% for the comparison condition represent a small effect size (h = 0.28).

Washington DC Trial Findings

Randomized controlled trial of a preventive intervention for perinatal depression in high-risk Latinas

A CBT intervention for low-income, high-risk Latinas reduced depressive symptoms during pregnancy but not during the postpartum period. Intervention participants had significantly lower depressive symptoms and fewer cases of moderate depression (BDI-II ≥ 20) at Time 2 than usual care (UC) participants. These effects were stronger for women who fully participated in the intervention (≥ 4 classes).

Baltimore Trials Findings

Six-month outcomes from a randomized controlled trial to prevent perinatal depression in low-income home visiting clients

Depressive symptoms declined at significantly greater rate for MB versus control group across all assessments; MDE incidence in 15 % MB group versus 32 % controls at 6 month follow up (ns)

Impact of a preventive intervention for perinatal depression on mood regulation, social support, and coping

The intervention group experienced 16 % greater growth in mood regulation from baseline to 6-month follow-up compared to the usual care group, suggesting a prevention effect. The pattern of findings was similar, although not statistically significant, for social support. Contrary to prediction, the control group experienced less growth in avoidant coping than the intervention group. Findings indicate the MB Course enhances mood regulation, which may facilitate prevention of depression over time. Preventing perinatal depression in low-income home visiting clients: a randomized controlled trial

This study provides preliminary data on the efficacy of a cognitive-behavioral intervention to prevent perinatal depression among home visiting clients and suggests it is feasible to embed such an intervention in home visitation programs.

Learn more about our work through recent publications

Mothers & Babies Modules


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