Addressing Postpartum Depression in Wisconsin Home Visiting Programs

UWPRC Core Research Project


Postpartum Depression is experienced by approximately 20% of new mothers and as many as 50% of mothers living in poverty, constituting a significant public health concern. In addition to impacting maternal mental health and well- being, studies have also documented the contribution of postpartum depression to risk for developmental delays and subsequent emotional and behavioral disturbances in young children. Despite screening and referrals by Ob-Gyn, primary care providers, public health nurses and home visitors, a majority of women impacted by racial, economic and health disparities encounter significant barriers to mental health evaluation and care. The number of women who receive treatment for depression is extremely low. Early intervention can shorten the course and severity of depression and co- occurring anxiety, trauma and stress thereby reducing suffering, increasing sensitivity and responsiveness in mother-infant relationships and healthy family functioning and decreasing exposure of infants to recurring maternal depressive episodes.

Research Strategy

The Core Research Project of the UW Prevention Research Center, “Addressing Postpartum Depression in Wisconsin Home Visiting Programs,” uses a novel two- generational parent-infant relationship focused, community-based approach to reduce the risks associated with maternal depression. To address the critical gap in access to evidence-based, trauma-informed treatment, Dr. Clark has developed, and pilot tested the incorporation of the Mother-Infant Therapy Group (M-ITG) into federally- funded home visiting programs within urban, rural and Tribal communities in WI. M-ITG is comprised of a Mothers’ Therapy Group and a concurrent Infant Developmental Group followed by Mother-Infant Dyadic Therapy. In pilot studies, the M-ITG preventative intervention approach was found to reduce depressive symptoms in mothers while simultaneously improving the mother-infant relationship and infant developmental functioning.

Research Approach

The Core Research Project is led by Co-PIs Dr. Roseanne Clark and Dr. Jane Mahoney. Working with national and international experts in perinatal mood disorders and parent-infant mental health, home visitors, community mental health providers, women and family members with lived experience, the PRC’s Community Advisory Board and Translational Partners Panel, they are using a Delphi survey process to identify core therapeutic elements and adapt and refine M-ITG for a randomized effectiveness trial. This research will help to inform widespread dissemination, adoption, and implementation in Wisconsin and nationally in order to better reach and address the needs of women experiencing depression in the postpartum period, their infants and families.

Illustration of mother holding a crying baby

Core Research Project Team

Roseanne Clark, PhD

Position title: Core Research Project Multiple Principal Investigator

Jane Mahoney, MD

Position title: Associate Director of Translation and Core Research Project Multiple Principal Investigator

Jen Perfetti, MA, LPC

Position title: Senior Clinician

Megan Hennessy

Position title: Program Coordinator

Ben Glad, MA, MS

Position title: Graduate Project Assistant