Mental health affects how individuals understand, respond and interact with the world around them and evidence suggests that addressing it is key to a healthy mother-child relationship. Maternal mental health can impact how mothers engage with their children, which has a lasting and profound influence on a child's development and overall health (1). During pregnancy, maternal stress can decrease the placenta's capacity and ability to protect the baby from elevated stress hormones (1). Exposure to these elevated stress hormones in utero has the potential to cause issues throughout the lifecourse,
including difficulties in learning and developing healthy relationships (2). Parents or caregivers who experience untreated depression, anxiety, and/or significant stress may be less likely to engage with their children in positive and interactive ways which is vital in promoting healthy brain development, behavioral functioning and ensuring protective relationships. The mental health of those caring for the youngest members of a family (parents and caregivers) needs to be a priority to ensure healthy families now and across the generations. In Michigan, on average, about 40,000 mothers per year are affected by perinatal anxiety and/or depression. Effective individualized tools and interventions that can help ensure parents and infants have a healthy start exist but most women with a perinatal mood disorder go untreated (17, 16). Combining interventions like early and frequent screening, relationships with trained professionals through prevention-based activities like home visiting, or interventions such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can provide mothers with tools to cope, and the therapy needed, to provide nurturing environments for their children. In this brief we explore measures to help address mental health for the mother or caregiver and infant dyad while highlighting some of the solutions currently in place that help mothers, infants and families start and stay on a healthy track.