By  05/10/2013

Claire Zlobin knew something was amiss. After giving birth to her daughter, she found herself often crying, lonely and depressed. When she tried to reach out to other moms in her community facing the same struggles, she became frustrated at the lack of peer support programs available to connect moms experiencing post-partum depression. So she started one of her own.

The not-for-profit Life With a Baby peer support program recently celebrated its five-year anniversary and its workshops and programs are so high in demand by moms – and dads – that Zlobin plans to expand chapters right across Canada.

“Moms need other moms and dads need other dads,” said Zlobin. “We were never meant to parent in silos. The first step in happy, healthy child development is happy, healthy parents. It’s my goal to reduce social isolation and connect parents nationally.”

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the Best Start Maternal Newborn Centre, social isolation is a risk factor contributing to post partum  depression.

In a panel discussion Wednesday evening titled “Post Partum Depression: Are we Doing Enough?” Zlobin shared her views alongside Canadian singer-songwriter Amy Sky and prominent perinatal physician and researcher Dr. Cindy-Lee Dennis who’s peer support study revealed programs such as Life With a Baby reduce the prevalence of post partum mood disorder in women by 50%.

“We had to do this very large trial to validate this simple intervention of creating a support network for new moms,” said Dr. Dennis. “I’m contacted by professionals around the world who want to implement this intervention.”

Other risk factors include stress and hormonal imbalances which a handful of U.S. and one Australian study have shown meditation and other mind-body interventions such as yoga and Qigong to be effective treatment options in the prevention of post partum depression and anxiety. Nearly 18% of pregnant women are depressed during pregnancy.

A 2008 study by Dr. Cassandra Vieten from the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute looked at the effects of mindfulness meditation and Hatha Yoga on prenatal stress and mood and demonstrated a 20-25% reduction in stress levels and anxiety in pregnant women.

About to be released are the details of a study by Dr. Sona Dimidjian from the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado showing the “favourable” results of a first-ever study done on at-risk pregnant women who continued a meditation and yoga practice into the post partum period.

During the panel, Dr. Dennis announced plans for Canada’s own study on mind-body interventions in the prevention and treatment of post partum depression. A”very large” grant request is being sent to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in September.

The study is to be spearheaded by Dr. Dennis and world-renown Canadian meditation expert Dr. Zindel Segal, a cognitive psychologist and depression specialist at CAMH.  Dr. Segal is one of the founders of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and has already shown meditation to be as effective as antidepressant medication in preventing a depression relapse.

“For women at risk, it’s definitely of value (meditation),” said Dr. Segal. “It’s a non-pharmacological means of prevention and should be offered in addition to other parenting classes and skills.”

Dr. Zindel Segal, one of the founders of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy and Cameron Wilson Chair in Depression Studies at the University of Toronto.

If left untreated, pregnant women who are depressed have a 50% chance of relapsing post partum, a time Sky, who spoke candidly about her own battle with post partum mood disorder calls the “fourth trimester.”

“When your brain goes to that place, I believe you’re always at risk to go to that place,” said Sky. “Some need pills but everyone needs skills to stay mentally resilient.”

“Meditation assisted me in easing my post partum anxiety,” said actor and playwright Rebecca Buttigieg. “It encouraged me to focus on stillness, breathing and to calm down.”

“I practiced journaling, had counseling and experimented with a variety of healers in iridology,  acupuncture,  kinesiology, EFT, and hypnosis,” said Lisa Molinelli who suffered from post partum depression after the birth of her son. “These methods helped me change my belief patterns surrounding my self-worth and accept myself for who I am.” Molinelli went on to train in hypnotherapy following her experience.

“Reiki was the complementary therapy that saved me from post partum depression,” said Geneviève Bailey, mom of two who became a Reiki master to help other moms.

“I put my sadness and numb feelings down to the disappointment in the birth as well as the pain medications I received after my C-section,” said Nicole Meltzer of Balanced Body Mind Spirit. “I started working on the associated chakras (root, sacral and heart), receiving Reiki and other energy treatments, meditating and did hypnosis to deal with the emotions that came up. Almost immediately I noticed that I was connecting better with my son and husband. Post partum depression ended up being the biggest gift for helping me define what and who I wanted in life.”


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Postpartum Depression / Anxiety