Calgary Health Foundation

A Mother's Fight with Post-Partum Depression

Pregnancy is often a joyous occasion, but for Alita Loewer the third trimester of her second pregnancy was filled with feelings of immense anxiety around her body image.

"I thought people were laughing at me," she said. This was additionally challenging since Alita's career kept her in the public eye. As a flight attendant there was no place to regroup while flying.

Along with the anxiety she had several other issues with her pregnancy. She told her family doctor how her anxiety was affecting her work and life, so her doctor prescribed some time off work. When the baby was born the body issues subsided, but she now was dealing with post-partum depression. Unlike traditional cases where the mother fixates on her newborn, Alita's anxiety focused on her two year old.

"I was filled with a sense of hopelessness. I would have visions of hurting my son and see blood in my head," she explained emotionally, "We are strictly a no spanking family, instead taking away privileges and having consequences, but I would get frustrated and overwhelmed and it got physical." When her husband came home from work she would tell him about what she was feeling and he would try to ease the stress and triggers as best he could. He finally suggested that he call her midwives.

Acting quickly, the midwives scheduled a meeting with Dr. Lisa Gagnon, a psychiatrist at the Women's Mental Health Clinic. In the meantime they also arranged for Alita to meet with an emergency councillor who, in turn, referred her case to Social Services.

Though initially she was heartbroken because of the call to Social Services, she found them extremely supportive. They checked up on her children and told her she couldn't be alone with them, but that turned out to be a blessing for Alita. Shortly after this she met with Dr. Gagnon, Alita was set up with one-on-one counselling, group therapy sessions and anti-anxiety medication.

"The counselling was fabulous and very effective. It was behavioural based and taught me skills for what to do when I had these thoughts about my son," said Alita, "I also went to group therapy with other moms who were dealing with similar feelings to me and I'm still good friends with one lady I met there to this day." One of the key changes she made was exercising, finding that it had an incredible impact on her happiness levels.

Alita's chosen exercise was Zumba. Her passion for the activity helped her with the body image issue and also allowed her to challenge herself. She has since become a Zumba instructor and when people asked her she chose to teach she openly shares her experience with post-partum depression.

"There is such a taboo placed on those with depression. If you've never had it, it's hard to understand and sympathise with those who do," she says.

It has been two years since Alita's experience with Dr. Gagnon and the Women's Mental Health Clinic.  In that time she has overcome her post-partum depression, returned to work and recently had a third child.

"I am so lucky to have had access to Dr. Gagnon and the counselling [at the Women's Mental Health Clinic]." says Alita, "I don't think I could have figured it out on my own. I needed someone specialized to help me work through it."

Nearly one in five women will experience mental health difficulties, such as major depression or anxiety disorders, during this reproductive stage of life. If you would like to help them, join us for the Shoppers Drug Mart Run for Women being held June 9 at Edworthy. You can walk or run 5K, run 10K.