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Postpartum support available

Women suffering with postpartum depression now have a source of support on the Coast.

Women suffering with postpartum depression now have a source of support on the Coast.

Johanna Rzepa with the Gibsons Health Unit said nurses had identified postpartum support as an area needing to be explored on the Coast, but until recently they didn't have the resources to identify it properly or offer specific support.

She explains a test has been devised and is now in practice on the Coast that will help identify women suffering with the depression at an early stage.

"So far from our findings it looks like about 20 per cent of women on the Coast are experiencing some form of postpartum depression," said Rzepa.

Rzepa said nurses at the health units are now "catching" those women who before were going undiagnosed and were "slipping through the cracks."

She also noted there is a Sunshine Coast prenatal conference coming up for prenatal care providers that will devote a workshop to "Self-Care for Women with Postpartum Depression."

And women with postpartum depression are finding another means of support, offered through the Bellies and Babies programs on the Coast.

Kim Oka, coordinator of that program, said she saw a need for someone to come into her group and work with women who may be struggling with postpartum depression. That need was met when local art therapist Bronwyn Chambers introduced herself to Oka, and a monthly art therapy session was set up.

Chambers will be going to the Gibsons Bellies and Babies group on the third Monday of the month and to the Sechelt Bellies and Babies group on the third Tuesday of the month.

At the first such meeting in Gibsons, Chambers had women complete a few exercises around discovering their true identity."Our identity can change and we can take on new identities over time as experiences and circumstances affect us," said Chambers as she was introducing the exercises to the group.

First the women were asked to draw a picture of their face with their eyes closed. The resulting artwork was intriguing and resembled each of the women in some way. They then talked about the images and what it was they thought made each of them unique or gave them their identity.

Next women wrote the words "I am" and completed the sentence dozens of times as they examined every layer of themselves.

It was a worthwhile experience no one wanted to end and all left the session with a clearer understanding of who they are, which Chambers notes is important during any major life change such as childbirth.

She will be back for another art therapy session on May 16 at Gibsons Family Place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and on May 17 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Sunshine Coast Community Services in Sechelt.

In addition to these efforts to help women with postpartum depression, Rzepa notes she is starting up a six-week postpartum support group on the Coast. Women identified through the nurses at the health units as needing postpartum support will be invited to join.