Experiences from conception to age six have the most important influence of any time in the life

Postpartum & Moms

MOMS (Mothers Offering Mentorship and Support):

An RCT to evaluate the effect of home-based peer support on maternal-infant interaction, infant health outcomes and postpartum depression

Summary of the Project

Researchers at the University of New Brunswick, in collaboration with the University of Alberta, are conducting a randomized controlled trial to examine the impact of a home-based peer support intervention for mothers and their infants affected by postpartum depression (PPD). Research suggests that depressed mothers may not pick up on their infants’ cues and thus, not provide positive feedback or meet their infants’ needs. Mothers who had PPD have been observed to be less sensitive, less appropriate, more negative in their play, speak more slowly and less often, are less emotionally expressive and responsive, less affectionate, and more anxious than mothers who had not suffered a mental illness. These disturbances in mother-infant interactions may cause poorer infant outcomes regarding social and cognitive development.

This study, funded by the March of Dimes, tests a 12-week intervention that provides peer support via weekly home visits and telephone contacts as needed. The Mothers Offering Mentorship and Support (MOMS) program will provide peer support from experienced mothers who have previously suffered from PPD and who have undergone an 8 hour training session and receive follow-up support. The intervention is developed primarily from Phase 1 findings from the CIHR-funded study Support for Women Who Experienced Symptoms of Postpartum Depression. The study is conducted in two sites; one where extensive services are available for PPD (Edmonton, Alberta) and one where relatively fewer services are available (rural region of New Brunswick). Data collection involves several qualitative and quantitative measures, including the collection of salivary cortisol. This unique measure will provide information on the stress levels of the mothers and their infants.

Goals and Objectives

The purpose of this randomized controlled trial is to test a novel home-based peer support approach to intervention and to examine not only maternal-infant interaction and infant development as outcomes, but also diurnal cortisol levels in infants. Moreover, this study will help establish the link between support for maternal caregiving, maternal-infant interaction, infant neuroendocrinology, and infant cognitive and social development. Understanding these relationships will have great implications for policies and programs for mothers and infants affected by PPD.

Members of the Team


Principal Investigator:

Nicole Letourneau
Faculty of Nursing
University of Calgary


Cindy-Lee Dennis
Faculty of Nursing
University of Toronto

Miriam Stewart
Social Support Research Program
University of Alberta

Doug Willms
Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy
University of New Brunswick

Kathleen Hegadoren
Faculty of Nursing
University of Alberta


Progress to Date

Data collection is complete. Please click here to access the final report andfact sheet.