Contributed to the project by local families apart of Campbell River and District Division of Family Practice.

Contributed to the project by local families apart of Campbell River and District Division of Family Practice.

Making Mama Well: new resources available for perinatal care in Campbell River

A new website, peer group and podcast among an expanded collection of resources

The arrival of a new baby comes with its share of anticipation and joy.

It also brings change, stress and a whole lot of questions.

Campbell River and District Division of Family Practice has recently developed new resources for parents or parents-to-be throughout the North Island.

Among those resources is a perinatal mental health project aimed at identifying gaps in the perinatal mental health support network and creating sustainable ways to fill them.

In January, the project — with funding from the Doctors of B.C. Shared Care Committee — partnered with a Pacific Post Partum Support Society to run a 12-week online peer-to-peer support group pilot. Organizers say the program was well-received and they are working on ways to bring it to the community permanently.

“There’s a lot of power in attending a support group with your peers and realizing you’re less alone,” said lead mental health project physician, Dr. Phillipa Houghton. “We are in discussions with funding avenues to keep it going in our community. We know the patients found it extremely valuable.”

Houghton specializes in perinatal mental health issues. Her podcast, Making Mama Well, will have 10 episodes as part of the mental health resources, five episodes are live right now. Houghton interviews a local mom with lived experience in each episode.

“I’m a mom, I have three little ones, I developed an interest in perinatal mental health sort of two-fold, one because I suffered pregnancy losses myself and had experienced sort of the grief and trauma myself as a patient. And then the other piece being I had a good friend with post-partum depression, and I just really realized how important timely and adequate resources are when you’re struggling in the post-partum period.”

She runs the perinatal mental health project independently. Other doctors are in place to help in other capacities, but Houghton is the only physician who holds a certificate in perinatal mental health.

“In wanting to do more work in this area I approached the division of family practice in Campbell River to see if they could support me in doing some training and developing some resources and this is sort of where we’ve landed on this project,” she said.

Houghton highlighted having resources for parents in Campbell River is valuable because pregnant individuals everywhere are in need. Due to the impacts of the isolating pandemic, anxiety and post-partum depression experiences became more common, she explained emphasizing that perinatal anxiety can get severe enough to require treatment.

“My main goal in all of this is to help mothers and parenting people and their support people to feel less alone and less stigmatized and to know when they need to ask for help.”

Houghton has many motivations for starting her podcast and pursuing the project.

“I love to speak about maternal mental health, and I love to be open and honest about both mental health disorders as well as just the challenges that come with new motherhood,” she said. “I find podcasts are a very accessible medium to new moms because you can just pop in some earbuds and listen to shows while you’re on a walk, doing laundry or while you’re breast-feeding.”

The goal of her podcast is to have local parents share their journeys and challenges with maternal mental health and how they got better, she said.

“If it needs to be expanded on, we’d love to do a second set of 10 if people found it valuable.”

The last episode is set to come out Sept. 7 if everything goes according to schedule.

Discussions include, what help was accessed, how to de-stigmatize diagnosis and discussion of what medications people used that helped them when necessary.

“I hope that it provides encouragement to someone who might be feeling alone and encourage someone to ask for help,” Houghton said. “The main thing that I want anyone to know is you’re still a good parent if you need to access care for your mental health and what your baby needs is a happy and healthy parent, so I hope by utilizing the resources we are creating mothers and parents feel encouraged and less alone in their experience.”

In addition, Campbell River and District Division of Family Practice has also launched a new website for all things pregnancy-related, specific to pregnancy, life, and birth in a rural community.

Topics include: How to tell if you’re pregnant; how to find a care provider; tips and resources; what to do if you don’t want to get pregnant; what to expect from the maternity ward at the hospital; and more, said project manager Emily Sayward.

Website content was developed by a few family doctors in the area and reviewed and augmented to by local families based on the original design and concept developed by the Chilliwack Division of Family Practice.

RELATED: Study explores pandemic experiences of new moms on Vancouver Island

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