Effect of prenatal and infancy home visitation by nurses on pregnancy outcomes, childhood injuries, and repeated childbearing. A randomized controlled trial

JAMA. 1997 Aug 27;278(8):644-52.


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.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Child Development
  • Community Health Nursing*
  • Female
  • House Calls*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / prevention & control
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal Behavior
  • Maternal Health Services*
  • Models, Statistical
  • Poverty
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Pregnancy Rate
  • Single Parent
  • Tennessee / epidemiology
  • Vaccination / statistics & numerical data
  • Wounds and Injuries / prevention & control