From Trauma to Triumph: Strategies for Addressing Maternal Mental Health

Healthy Ozarks
4 min readMay 9, 2023

By Jill Allen, Public Health Nurse and Erica Little, Administrator of Chronic Disease Prevention for Springfield-Greene County Health

Mental health is an important aspect of overall maternal health, and it can be impacted by a variety of factors, including trauma. Trauma can take many forms, including physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, neglect, or other adverse childhood experiences. Maternal trauma can be particularly impactful during pregnancy and postpartum, as it can increase the risk of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health disorders.

This Maternal Mental Health Month, we want to promote care that takes these factors into consideration. Having identified mental health as a priority health issue for the entire community, Springfield-Greene County Health and our healthcare partners are working to implement a trauma-informed approach to all our services and programs in the hopes of creating a Trauma-Informed Community.

Trauma-informed care is an approach to healthcare that recognizes the impact of trauma on individuals and seeks to provide care in a way that is sensitive, supportive, and empowering. Those who are trained in the practice understand and recognize that most individuals have a history of trauma. Trauma-informed care encourages providers to recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in patients, understand its impact and promote paths for recovery. For maternal mental health, trauma-informed care can be an essential component of effective treatment. Trauma-informed communities support trauma-informed care. Trauma-informed community development acknowledges the impact trauma has not only on individuals, but entire communities.

Here are some strategies for identifying and addressing trauma in a trauma-informed way:

Screening: Providers should screen for a history of trauma as a routine part of maternal healthcare, ideally during pregnancy and again in the postpartum period. Screening can help identify those who may be at higher risk for mental health issues and ensure that they receive appropriate care. SGCHD conducts mental health screenings through both our NEST Partnership and the WIC family health and nutrition program.

Safety & Trust: Providers should prioritize creating a safe and supportive environment for patients, both physically and emotionally. This includes working to establish trust with patients by being honest and reliable. This can help patients feel more comfortable sharing their experiences and seeking help when needed.

Empowerment: Service providers should empower patients by making them feel heard and validated when they have concerns and giving them the tools they need to make informed decision about their care. Working together with patients to develop plans to meet their unique needs and goals is essential to empower expecting and new parents. This includes providing education about mental health conditions, coping strategies, and self-care practices.

By adopting a trauma-informed approach to maternal mental health, providers can help ensure that patients receive the care and support they need to manage mental health issues related to trauma. This can lead to better outcomes for both parents and their children, and ultimately help to promote overall maternal health and well-being.

To learn more about Springfield-Greene County’s goal of creating a Trauma-Informed Community, visit our Community Health Improvement Plan webpage.

Jill Allen (left) and Erica Little (right)

Jill Allen holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and is the prenatal team lead for the NEST Partnership for Springfield-Greene County Health. The NEST Partnership is a program that provides free nurse visits for families both during and after pregnancy to help individuals have a healthier pregnancy and healthier baby. Jill has worked for the health department since 2014. Jill co-chaired the Maternal Mental Health Network that helped to bring awareness for increased maternal mental health education and resources to the Springfield community.

Erica Little has worked in public health arena for the past 15 years, with experience ranging from a public health practitioner to administrator. She has worked with Springfield-Greene County Health in several capacities over the last 8 years. As the Chronic Disease Prevention Administrator, Erica oversees the program areas of Community Health Advocates, Community Wellness (including mental health and substance use) Nurse Case Home Visiting for expectant moms and infants (NEST) and Women, Infant, Children (WIC). In these program areas, she and her team work towards health improvement with community partners through actions, such as implementing programs and policy change, and collaborations to deploy the Community Health Improvement Plan. Most importantly Erica has a passion to change the lives of those in her community for the better.