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When I became mother for the first time, I really felt like I had crossed over into this unspoken club. I’d walk by another mom with her infant on a morning stroll, we’d make eye contact, smile at each other and it was like we’d had a whole conversation. We knew we were both tired, having been up half the night, probably had a living room full of laundry, a sink full of dishes, and we each probably hadn’t washed our hair for a few days or more. Who has time for all of that with a new baby around? The more I began to meet, speak with, and work with other moms, the more I realized that we really had each other’s backs through the good, the bad, and the ugly. I began to see how moms helping moms and relating to each other is key to our emotional survival. Peer support is a powerful thing.
The truth is, many new parents struggle in their adjustment to life with a new baby. While not always talked about openly, postnatal depression is something that many experience, with a prevalence rate of 13%. The cause of this postpartum mood disturbance is really multi-factorial, but we know that having a lack of social support significantly increases a woman’s risk of postnatal depression. This is important to recognize and prevention strategies should be a priority in all communities. Postnatal depression not only affects the quality of life for a mother, but it also can lead to negative consequences for the infant with impaired maternal-infant interaction. With prevention being the best medicine, creating safe spaces for peer connection is crucial, whether through in person support groups or in the online space.
Having peers accessible who not only listen and respond, but who can relate to the experience a new mother is going through can play a huge role in both prevention and treatment of postnatal depression. In a recent study looking at prevention strategies across Ontario, it was shown that regular telephone based peer support in high risk groups helped to cut the risk of developing postnatal depression in half! Such a simple intervention and yet a huge impact because of the lifeline that was offered. We are lucky to live in a world where even when new mothers may feel physically isolated, the number of options for connection through telephone contact or online forums and groups is growing. These really open up the possibilities for those struggling with mood who for whatever reason find it challenging to leave home.
Connection and community are key as new parents. I think the saying “It takes a village to raise a child”, is really talking about more than just the needs of our young, but extends to the needs of mothers. Navigating our new roles as parents is hard even when mood isn’t a concern and even on the best of days. For those working through the feelings of overwhelm, make sure you are reaching out because nobody was meant to walk this road alone! If you’re not sure where to start, consider Postpartum Progress for an online support community, Le Leche League monthly meetings, and don’t be afraid to ask for ideas on your local facebook mother’s support page.
Material on this website is provided for informational purposes only. It should not be used as a replacement for medical diagnosis, treatment, or professional medical advice. Always seek professional medical consultation by a licensed medical or naturopathic physician for diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition. Please seek medical attention immediately if ever concerned.