The Survivor Moms’ Companion (SMC) is a psychoeducational program that reduces intergenerational cycles of abuse and vulnerability by addressing mothers’ abuse and other trauma-related mental health and development needs during pregnancy and the early postpartum period. It is primary prevention for their babies.
At least one in five women has a history of abuse and neglect in childhood and youth, which makes them 12 times more likely to develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during the perinatal year.
PTSD during and following pregnancy has a number of serious negative effects for both babies and mothers:
- lower birth weight and shorter gestation,
- less breastfeeding,
- post-partum PTSD and depression,
- difficulty bonding and less sensitive parenting,
- an easily agitated baby who is difficult to calm, and
- more involvement by child protective services.
PTSD in mothers who experienced abuse and neglect in their own youth is a strong predictor of cycles of abuse and psychiatric problems across generations. This makes PTSD a prime target for programs to break these cycles and improve babies' well-being and moms' mental health.
The need for trauma-informed care and trauma-specific treatments is clear. Until now, there has been no evidence-based, frontline intervention for PTSD designed for pregnant women and new moms.
The SMC was created by midwives, in partnership with survivor moms from diverse backgrounds, using “participatory action research.” This unique intervention helps women manage PTSD triggers specific to childbirth, like fear of labor. It helps women break the cycle of abuse with strategies to keep the child safe within the family system where past abuse occurred, and to manage PTSD reactions as they parent.
The SMC is an easy-to-follow, fully manualized psychoeducational program that maintains consistency among and across agency users. Using a 10-module, illustrated workbook, the moms meet by telephone or in person with their own “tutors” to get emotional support while discussing the information, practicing new skills, and problem solving. Tutors receive training, supervision, and charting materials. Agencies receive training, so all staff can support “survivor moms.”
Published results of the University of Michigan pilot demonstrate promising results, and results of another pilot study in Buffalo, NY are under review and will be available soon. The National Association for Prevention of Cruelty to Children is currently using the SMC in England. Data will be collected from “champion sites” and other early adopters until a firm evidence base is established.
Growing Forward Together, a 501(c)3 nonprofit charitable organization, has been chosen to markets, licenses and distributes the SMC to end-user community organizations. The license provides (1) technical assistance, (2) training, and (3) full access to a web portal/charting interface.
The SMC is aligned with SAMHSA’s call for trauma-specific interventions and trauma-informed care. The SMC also is designed to integrate well with home-visiting programs and group prenatal care.