Now in their fourth series, it first began with just 20 mothers. The most recent series in February attracted 75 mothers from as far as the Saskatchewan border. One of the main feedbacks, Laval says, was the program’s aid in their struggle to separate personal identity from motherhood.

“It helped them tap back into the person that they used to identify with. So, looking at the loss of identity when they become a new mom and they feel like that’s all they’re living, eating, and breathing.”

In a bingo-style sheet, participants can track which of the 30 self-care tools they have tried for a chance to win one of four available prizes valued each at $150. Laval will also contact the winners to discuss personalized self-care options and potentially connect them with other related organizations for further support.

A related program is the “Move your Mood” series by AHS.

Initially developed for youth in 2011 with the help of then-Red Deer College, the postpartum series was introduced at the start of the pandemic for new mothers experiencing challenges.

The free eight-week program incorporates five stages relating to physical movement, mindfulness, coping strategies, positive parenting and healthy nutrition for moms and babies. Normally held in person, the program has temporarily been taking place virtually.

According to AHS officials, postpartum mood disorders are common with an average of one in five moms experiencing symptoms after pregnancy and this number has increased since the pandemic began.

Laval says mothers, especially in rural communities, felt further isolated with restrictions limiting access to proper coping mechanisms.

Denise Fredeen, AHS Health Promotion Facilitator and coordinator for the Move Your Mood program, echoed that statement, saying mothers struggled to connect.

“We heard a lot from the moms that during the pandemic they missed a lot of things like baby showers,” said Fredeen. “These moms truly enjoyed the connection to the group.”

The next in-person session is estimated to take place in Red Deer in the fall. Registration is typically on a referral basis either through the self-care program, a doctor, or partner organization for mothers.

AHS is one member of the Red Deer Maternal Mental Health Steering committee, which also includes representatives from Red Deer Polytechnic, Red Deer Doula Association, Night Owl Doula, Red Deer Pregnancy Care Centre, Red Deer Primary Care Network, Family Services of Central Alberta, Turning Point, as well as local moms.

Registration for the self-care series is available until April 29 with a program start date set for May 1. For more information, contact Laval at [email protected]

For more information on the Move Your Mood program, contact Fredeen at [email protected].

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