For most new moms, pregnancy and birth are a time for celebration. But for some — about a quarter of new mothers in Canada — maternal milestones can put them at risk for poor mental health.
The latter was the case for Anneliese Lawton, a mom of three, bestselling author, editor of a local magazine, and Hamilton’s Shoppers Drug Mart Run for Women Community Champion.
The Run for Women takes place on June 17 at Confederation Park. All funds raised will directly support women’s mental health and addictions care at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. Since its inception, the run has raised more than $450,000 for St. Joe’s, with a goal to raise an additional $150,000 in 2023.
Anneliese’s mental health struggles started long before she became a mom. But it’s when she got pregnant with her first child, Jack, they began to spiral into life-threatening depression.
After two high-risk traumatic pregnancies and the birth of her second child, Max, Anneliese found herself caring for two young boys a year and a half apart. One day, the mounting pressures of motherhood became too much, and she stormed out of her house in despair.
“I had wanted to be a mom my entire life and, in that moment, I didn’t want that anymore,” Anneliese recalls. “It was jarring for me to feel this way.”
That’s when her husband, Dave, called to get her help, and Anneliese was diagnosed with postpartum depression (PPD).
COVID-19 AND MATERNAL MENTAL HEALTH
Over time, with therapy and medication, Anneliese was able to find balance in her life and feel more confident as a mom. As a result, she and Dave decided to have a third child. But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Like many women who juggled online schooling with being caregivers to their families, their careers and their personal well-being during the pandemic, a pregnant Anneliese was also feeling the heavy weight of COVID-19 on her emotional health. As a result, her doctor referred her to St. Joe’s Women’s Health Concerns Clinic for help.
“With support from my care team at St. Joe’s, I didn’t hit the rock-bottom place I was in with my earlier two pregnancies, and I’m incredibly grateful,” Anneliese says. “And I didn’t experience PPD after my daughter Abby was born. Instead, I was given the gift of enjoying motherhood through a fresh set of eyes.”
PROVIDING MENTAL HEALTH CARE TO WOMEN THROUGHOUT LIFE’S MILESTONES
St. Joe’s Women’s Health Concerns Clinic supports the mental health of women throughout all life stages — from menstruation to pregnancy, postpartum periods and the menopausal transition.
In fact, with funds raised locally through the Run for Women, clinician-researchers at St. Joe’s have developed new and effective treatments for women living with mood and anxiety disorders.
Psychologist Dr. Sheryl Green and her colleagues, for example, were able to study the impact of COVID-19 on maternal mental health and how cognitive behavioural group therapy could help them heal.
“The clinical research we do at St. Joe’s not only benefits the roughly 1,000 women who are referred to our clinic every year, it also helps vulnerable women across Canada — and the world — to get the treatment they need to support their mental health,” says Dr. Green.
“That’s why community support for the Run for Women is so vital. It helps ensure that more women will have access to the best possible care when, and where, they need it.”
In June, Anneliese is participating in the Shoppers Drug Mart Run for Women to let other women and mothers facing mental health challenges know that they’re not alone and support is available when they are ready to reach out.
To learn more, visit the Run for Women website. For mental health information and resources, visit St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s website.
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