Research projects

Baby Steps: Promoting perinatal mental health and wellbeing. Development and evaluation of screening and intervention programs for both parents, using the internet and text messages (SMS)

Principal researchers

Prof David Kavanagh, Dr Leigh Davis, Prof Jane Fisher, Prof Kim Halford, Dr Kyra Hamilton, A/Prof Leanne Hides, Prof Jeannette Milgrom, Dr Heather Rowe, Prof Paul Scuffham,  A/Prof Dian Tjondronegoro, Dr Anne Walsh, Prof Katherine White, Dr Anja Wittkowski


Ms Amy Kelly, Dr Leigh Davis, Dr Jennifer Connolly, Ms Davina Sanders


Queensland University of Technology

Mater Research

University of Melbourne, Austin Health, Parent-Infant Research Institute



Co-funded with


Award type

National Priority Driven Research Program

Project completion year


Project brief

This project began in October 2012 and was conducted in three phases: an exploration of recent parents’ wellbeing experiences; the web program development and piloting; and the evaluation of the program’s efficacy and cost-effectiveness.

Qualitative interviews with new mothers and fathers highlighted perinatal experiences that could either enhance wellbeing or undermine it. These interviews informed the content of wellbeing modules and tools in the program. The resultant program was piloted with recent parents before its launch.

A randomised controlled trial was then conducted over six months, comparing the efficacy of the full Baby Steps program (Wellbeing), with its baby care information components alone (Babycare). Both programs were supported by 4 SMSs over the first 10 weeks to encourage program use. Participants were 248 couples who were expecting their first child. Feedback on the programs from both parents was very positive. However, program use was lower than expected.

Improvements were seen across samples on measures of distress, parenting self-efficacy and parenting satisfaction. Mothers in the Wellbeing program had greater improvements in their self-efficacy about providing support to their partner than did those in Babycare, but there were no other differential effects of the two programs. Further research with an additional control group is needed to test whether the programs were better than standard care alone.

Overall, the results suggest that Baby Steps (Wellbeing program) could be a cost-effective, accessible and well-received program for the delivery of information and tools to enhance wellbeing during the perinatal period.

Read more

Download the final report

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