Community agencies proactively provide a safe environment for mothers and fathers to come forward to share their parenting experiences and difficulties. By being sensitive and non-judgemental to families’ circumstances, service providers build trusting relationships, and parents can receive counselling and psycho-education towards better maternal mental health. Families and the community can support mothers by being empathetic, and women who have experienced antenatal and postnatal depression can also take the initiative to encourage mothers who face similar difficulties.
A history of physical and/or sexual abuse in mothers has been found to impact their caregiving behaviour and ability to develop strong mother-infant attachments. Untreated trauma symptoms may increase the risk of mothers behaving in a hostile manner towards their infants. This can expose the infant to higher levels of stress, which can affect his/her development and ability to respond to trauma. Unmet needs in both the mother and child can perpetuate their stresses, making it difficult to disrupt the intergenerational transmission of trauma. Early detection and proper intervention can help to mend the attachment between the mother and child and support both, in learning how to be resilient and respond positively when met with adverse situations.
Multifaceted, cross-sector collaboration of healthcare professionals, community organisations and government agencies is key to developing holistic care for mothers to meet their physical, psychosocial and cognitive needs. Targeted interventional programmes need to be defined for at-risk families, such as those where the parents are incarcerated, and to be moved further upstream to the point of marriage, as well as to include considerations for children with special needs.