Comparing the effectiveness of home visiting paraprofessionals and mental health professionals delivering a postpartum depression preventive intervention: a cluster-randomized non-inferiority clinical trial

Arch Womens Ment Health. 2021 Aug;24(4):629-640. doi: 10.1007/s00737-021-01112-9. Epub 2021 Mar 3.


To determine whether pregnant women receiving the Mothers and Babies group-based intervention exhibited greater depressive symptom reductions and fewer new cases of major depression than women receiving usual community-based services, and to examine whether groups run by paraprofessional home visitors and mental health professionals yielded similar depressive symptom reductions and prevention of major depression. Using a cluster-randomized design, 37 home visiting programs were randomized to usual home visiting, Mothers and Babies delivered via home visiting paraprofessionals, or Mothers and Babies delivered via mental health professionals. Baseline assessments were conducted prenatally with follow-up extending to 24 weeks postpartum. Eligibility criteria were ≥ 16 years old, ≤ 33 gestation upon referral, and Spanish/English speaking. Depressive symptoms at 24 weeks postpartum was the primary outcome. Eight hundred seventy-four women were enrolled. Neither intervention arm was superior to usual care in decreasing depressive symptoms across the sample (p = 0.401 home visiting paraprofessional vs. control; p = 0.430 mental health professional vs. control). Post hoc analyses suggest a positive intervention effect for women exhibiting mild depressive symptoms at baseline. We have evidence of non-inferiority, as the model-estimated mean difference in depressive symptoms between intervention arms (0.01 points, 95% CI: -0.79, 0.78) did not surpass our pre-specified margin of non-inferiority of two points. Although we did not find statistically significant differences between intervention and control arms, non-inferiority analyses found paraprofessional home visitors generated similar reductions in depressive symptoms as mental health professionals. Additionally, Mothers and Babies appears to reduce depressive symptoms among women with mild depressive symptoms when delivered by mental health professionals. This trial is registered on (initial post: December 1, 2016; identifier: NCT02979444).

Keywords: Depression; Home visiting; Paraprofessional; Postpartum; Prevention.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Depression, Postpartum* / diagnosis
  • Depression, Postpartum* / prevention & control
  • Female
  • House Calls
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mental Health
  • Postnatal Care
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy

Associated data