For first-time mothers especially, the hardships and stress that come along with parenting can be overwhelming, and in some cases require the help of at-home visits by a health care professional. A recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics focusing on black mothers from low-income backgrounds who gave birth to their first child suggests that the risk of preventable death in both mother and child can be significantly reduced through at-home visits by nurses.

"These findings should be replicated in well-powered trials with populations at very high levels of familial and neighborhood risk," said Dr. David Olds, lead author from the University of Colorado, in a statement.

Olds and his colleagues recruited 1,138 mothers who received one of four treatments: transportation for prenatal care; transportation and developmental screening for infants and toddlers; transportation and prenatal/postnatal home visits; and transportation and developmental screening in addition to prenatal/postnatal and infant/toddler home visits up to the age of 2. Between 1990 and 2011, the research team analyzed all-cause mortalities in mothers and preventable-cause mortalities in children, which included sudden infant death syndrome, unintentional injury, and homicide.

Over the span of the 21 years that data was collected, the all-cause mortality rate among mothers receiving transportation for prenatal care or transportation plus developmental screening for infants and toddlers reached 3.7 percent. The all-cause mortality rate among mothers who received transportation and prenatal/postnatal home visits, or transportation and developmental screening in addition to prenatal/postnatal and infant/toddler home visits up to the age of 2, reached 0.4 and 2.2 percent, respectively. At the age of 20, mortality rates among children whose mothers received transportation and developmental screening for infants and toddlers, or transportation and developmental screening in addition to prenatal/postnatal and infant/toddler home visits up to the age of 2 reached 1.6 and zero percent, respectively.

Groups providing at home nursing care, such as Nurse-Family Partnership, are designed to improve maternal and child health by motivating women to protect themselves and their children. From pregnancy until the age of 2, nurses offer support that mothers need “to deliver healthy babies, become confident parents, and ultimately, encourage them to pursue a better future for themselves and their children.”

Source: Olds D, Kitzman H, Knudtson M, Anson E, Smith J, Cole R. Effect of Home Visiting by Nurses on Maternal and Child Mortality: Results of a 2-Decade Follow-up of a Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Pediatrics. 2014.