HELENA — It is estimated that 1-in-7 mothers nationwide will suffer the most common complication of childbirth, postpartum anxiety or depression.
Local experts say this number has only gone up during the pandemic and are now trying to combat the issue.
“The pandemic has made it harder because we are not doing as much socialization,” says Kelsey Kyle, a Nurse Case Manager at St. Peter’s Health in Helena.
Kyle helped develop a parent-support program at St. Peter's Health and is well aware of what new parents are going through. She says 50% of them feel some relief from postpartum anxiety or depression after socializing with other parents, but the pandemic has put that treatment on pause.
“All of the groups that were going in Helena, that had different ways for parents to gather and just meet new parents and connect with somebody going through the same stage of life, as they were. All of those things went away," says Kyle.
Kyle is also Co-Chair of the Maternal Mental Health Task Force under the Early Childhood Coalition which noticed the same effects from the pandemic on parents and decided to offer online peer support as the solution.
"I wrote a grant application that was funded by a [Department of Public Health and Human Services] (DPHHS) program. That allowed us to train in online group peer support,” says Brie MacLaurin, the task force founder and Executive Director of Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies.
The task force ended up with three grants from DPHHS to fund 25 groups across the state, to host these free, online support groups for mothers. Aurora Birth Song in Helena is one of those groups and explained how it all works.
“It's not therapy, but it is a safe place for [mothers] just to share strong emotions whether it is laughter or tears,” says Sheri Walker, Aurora Birth Song owner and Childbirth Educator. “Everybody is provided an opportunity to share without receiving any advice or judgment. We know that shared experience is beneficial in helping people get through whatever they're getting through."
The task force is hopeful they can have all 25 online groups across the state ready to go by the end of summer 2021. Aurora Birth Song already has its online peer support program up and running. They meet twice a month virtually. Click here for their website.