When it comes to postpartum help, money an issue
Oxford County public health nurse Lesley Leach didn’t know if her postpartum drop-in program was going to last past its first 16 weeks.
“There’s not a lot of funding, but we were able to make a case to fund a 16-week program to prove there was a need and that it was money well spent,” Leach said in a telephone interview. “The 16 weeks went by and we gave it another 16 weeks.”
The first 16-week program came and went in 2009. Almost three years later, the weekly drop-in program is still running. Created by Oxford County’s department of public health and emergency services, the program’s costs and staffing are now shared with the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Oxford branch.
A room at a discounted rate is made available at the Woodstock YMCA, with the benefit of having on-site child-care and providing a location where new parents can return with their children outside of the weekly drop-in sessions.
“Over the three years, we’ve had 27 women who’ve used the services,” Leach said.
“We figure that (some) of them are probably better off as a result. We know postpartum depression affects relationships in the home and it affects the babies, too.”
It took some time to build the program to its current point of stability. Leach admitted the first few times saw only one or two people attend. But soon there were four or more.
As she spread the word within the public health department, referrals started arriving from nurses who were out in the community doing clinics or visiting new families through the Healthy Babies, Healthy Children program.
The resources for this program largely were drawn from the Middlesex-London Health Unit, seen as a source for information offered to new families through local health units. The Haldimand-Norfolk and Waterloo Region health units both credit the London-based service as a resource for the information on their respective websites.
“The big thing is money- this is not a mandatory program for health units, but parenting programs are,” Leach explained. “So far, we’ve supported it.”
The Oxford program is faring stronger than a similar monthly drop-in program being run by the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit. Public health nurse Lynda Burville explained in a phone interview that attendance for the program at the Simcoe Ontario Early Years Centre has been softer than expected.
Just like the program in Woodstock, the Haldimand-Norfolk one sees a public health nurse and a Canadian Mental Health Association social worker facilitate the sessions. Resources, based on the London-Middlesex ones and others from the provincial ministries, are also made available to new parents.
“We’ve had a poor response to it so there are different things we’re trying to do in response,” Burville said. “Some mothers are afraid to admit they’re having difficulty with a young baby. They fear that if they admit it, someone might come and take their baby away.”
So, rather than rely on referrals from physicians, pediatricians and other public health staff members, Burville is stepping into other public heath programs to increase awareness.
“We talk about it in our prenatal groups- we go over the signs and symptoms and talk about moms feeling isolated,” Burville explained. “In the initial classes after the baby is born, through the OEYC where we address things like breastfeeding, we talk about postpartum depression.
“At times (mothers) are more open and ready to hear about it after the baby is born.”
Burville has also increased the investment in desk references and materials made available to others.
Of note, these sorts of programs don’t have to be led by a public health unit. At the Region of Waterloo Public Health, the health unit plays a referral role to those programs and services available to assist with postpartum mood disorders.
Manager Sue Morrison explained that, while her responsibilities include family and parenting, she doesn’t run or directly oversee programs that can help new families get through postpartum depression. Fortunately, she is able to refer people who come to her to one of two community-based programs at the Grand River and Cambridge Memorial hospitals and one of the region’s OEYCs.
Where Morrison is placing some increased health unit emphasis on a regional and provincial levels is in anti-natal mood disorders- when mothers start experiencing symptoms before the baby is born. Any new programs there might roll out through the health unit’s existing prenatal programs or through partnerships.
Moms offering moms support (MOMS)
Weekly drop-in program held at the Woodstock YMCA
Support from a public health nurse and social worker from the Canadian Mental Health Association – Oxford
Childcare available on site
Annual public health budget- $5,500 (approximately), split 50-50 with the CMHA
More information: http://bit.ly/OxfordPPMD
PPMD support group
Grand River and Cambridge Memorial hospitals
Support from social workers based at the hospitals
Annual public health budget – $0, costs are paid by hospitals
More information: http://www.grhosp.on.ca/Postpartummooddisorders
Stork’s Secrets peer support group for mothers
Our Place Family Resource and Early Years Centre at St. Francis School in Kitchener
Support from peers and professionals
Annual public health budget – $0, costs paid by centre
More information: http://bit.ly/KL2jzo
Post-partum support group
Monthly drop-in program held at the Ontario Early Years Centre in Simcoe
Support from a public health nurse and social worker from the Canadian Mental Health Association – Haldimand-Norfolk
Annual public health budget – staff time, cost of printing and distributing resources
More information: http://bit.ly/KL2jzo
Weekly drop-in program held St. Andrew’s Community Centre in Brantford
Facilitated by an early childhood educator with support from Kids Can Fly and the Brant Postpartum Depression Working Group
Annual public health budget – $0 as this program is not supported by the Brant County Public Health unit
More information: https://www.kidscanfly.ca/the-parachute-club/