Context: Interest in home-visitation services as a way of improving maternal and child outcomes has grown out of the favorable results of a trial in semirural New York. The findings have not been replicated in other populations.
Objective: To test the effect of prenatal and infancy home visits by nurses on pregnancy-induced hypertension, preterm delivery, and low birth weight; on children's injuries, immunizations, mental development, and behavioral problems; and on maternal life course.
Design: Randomized controlled trial.
Setting: Public system of obstetric care in Memphis, Tenn.
Participants: A total of 1139 primarily African-American women at less than 29 weeks' gestation, with no previous live births, and with at least 2 sociodemographic risk characteristics (unmarried, <12 years of education, unemployed).
Intervention: Nurses made an average of 7 (range, 0-18) home visits during pregnancy and 26 (range, 0-71) visits from birth to the children's second birthdays.
Main outcome measures: Pregnancy-induced hypertension, preterm delivery, low birth weight, children's injuries, ingestions, and immunizations abstracted from medical records; mothers' reports of children's behavioral problems; tests of children's mental development; mothers' reports of subsequent pregnancy, educational achievement, and labor-force participation; and use of welfare derived from state records.
Main results: In contrast to counterparts assigned to the comparison condition, fewer women visited by nurses during pregnancy had pregnancy-induced hypertension (13% vs 20%; P=.009). During the first 2 years after delivery, women visited by nurses during pregnancy and the first 2 years of the child's life had fewer health care encounters for children in which injuries or ingestions were detected (0.43 vs 0.55; P=.05); days that children were hospitalized with injuries or ingestions (0.03 vs 0.16; P<.001); and second pregnancies (36% vs 47%; P=.006). There were no program effects on preterm delivery or low birth weight; children's immunization rates, mental development, or behavioral problems; or mothers' education and employment.
Conclusion: This program of home visitation by nurses can reduce pregnancy-induced hypertension, childhood injuries, and subsequent pregnancies among low-income women with no previous live births.