BACKGROUND: Postnatal depression and caregiving difficulties adversely affect mothers, infants, and later childhood development. In many countries, resources to help mothers and infants are limited. Online group-based nurse-led interventions have the potential to help address this problem by providing large numbers of mothers with access to professional and peer support during the postnatal period.
OBJECTIVE: This study tested the effectiveness of a 4-month online group-based nurse-led intervention delivered when infants were aged 2 to 6 months as compared with standard care outcomes.
METHODS: The study was a block randomized control trial. Mothers were recruited at the time they were contacted for the postnatal health check offered to all mothers in South Australia. Those who agreed to participate were randomly assigned to the intervention or standard care. The overall response rate was 63.3% (133/210). Primary outcomes were the level of maternal depressive symptoms assessed with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) and quality of maternal caregiving assessed using the Parenting Stress Index (PSI; competence and attachment subscales), the Parenting Sense of Competence Scale (PSCS), and the Nursing Child Assessment Satellite Training Scale. Assessments were completed at baseline (mean child age 4.9 weeks [SD 1.4]) and again when infants were aged 8 and 12 months.
RESULTS: Outcomes were evaluated using linear generalized estimating equations adjusting for postrandomization group differences in demographic characteristics and the outcome score at baseline. There were no significant differences in the intervention and standard care groups in scores on the PSI competence subscale (P=.69) nor in the PSCS (P=.11). Although the group by time interaction suggested there were differences over time between the EPDS and PSI attachment subscale scores in the intervention and standard care groups (P=.001 and P=.04, respectively), these arose largely because the intervention group had stable scores over time whereas the standard care group showed some improvements between baseline and 12 months. Mothers engaged well with the intervention with at least 60% (43/72) of mothers logging-in once per week during the first 11 weeks of the intervention. The majority of mothers also rated the intervention as helpful and user-friendly.
CONCLUSIONS: Mothers reported that the intervention was helpful, and the app was described as easy to use. As such, it appears that support for mothers during the postnatal period, provided using mobile phone technology, has the potential to be an important addition to existing services. Possible explanations for the lack of differences in outcomes for the 2 groups in this study are the failure of many mothers to use key components of the intervention and residual differences between the intervention and standard care groups post randomization.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12616001732471; http://www.ANZCTR.org.au/ACTRN12616001732471.aspx (archived on WebCite as http://www.webcitation.org/77zo30GDw).
Bibliographical note©Alyssa Sawyer, Amy Kaim, Huynh-Nhu Le, Denise McDonald, Murthy Mittinty, John Lynch, Michael Sawyer. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org), 04.06.2019.
- mobile phone
- mother-child relations
- postnatal depression
- randomized controlled trial