Move Your Mood program helps new Red Deer moms

Connections, exercise and education ease postpartum challenges

RED DEER – It’s not easy at the best of times to get yourself, and your new baby, ready and out of the house for a workout.

Add mild depression or anxiety into the mix — not to mention a global pandemic — and it’s easy to see why a group of new Red Deer moms is rockin’ it in a new Alberta Health Services (AHS) program designed to help ease postpartum issues.

“I was a very physically active person prior to pregnancy — snowboarding and going to yoga and the gym — but my postpartum recovery has been very difficult,” says Rashel McGee, 32. “This program has helped me immensely because movement has always been medicine for me.”

The Move Your Mood Postpartum program incorporates fun movement such as aerobic activity, strength training and yoga classes. It also includes ways to practise mindfulness, coping strategies, positive parenting and healthy nutrition for moms and babies.

Most importantly, it’s an opportunity for new moms to connect.

Postpartum mood disorders are common. On average, one in five moms will experience symptoms after pregnancy, and studies suggest these numbers have increased since COVID-19 took hold.

“The goal is to empower women to be healthy and active at a time where they have to find a new way to do that,” says Denise Fredeen, an AHS health promotion facilitator and creator of the program.

“As they incorporate movement into their lives again with their babies, we’ve watched these new moms become more socially connected, more open, more trusting and more self-confident.”

The program started in February 2020 with Strollercize at Red Deer College’s walking track. When COVID-19 hit, all activities moved online. The transition was mostly seamless — and a welcome development for moms, at a time when the world moved into home isolation.

Participants say the online classes are very convenient and remove the barriers to attendance that childcare pressure and lack of sleep can sometimes create.

Along with Fredeen, Christine Laval is also a health promotion facilitator and co-organizer of the program. She says she’s thrilled with the quality-of-life improvements participants have enjoyed, including better sleep and ability to cope with stress.

“A lot of new moms feel disconnected, alone and without support,” says Laval. “But over time, they learn that other moms are experiencing the same natural ups and downs of having a new baby, and learn to talk over or work out the frustrations of the day with others.”

Many participants recommend the class to other new moms who may be struggling, even a little bit.

McGee agrees that the instructors make it easy and welcoming.

“It can be so hard to take that first step,” McGee adds. “But when you do, the better you’ll feel. Every time I move I feel so empowered again.”

Rashel McGee, here with her daughter Mira, says movement is medicine and has taken part in the Move Your Mood program to get active again and connect to others.

For more information on AHS Addiction & Mental Health programs, visit www.ahs.ca/helpintoughtimes. For more information on future Move Your Mood Postpartum programs, contact move.yourmood@albertahealthservices.ca.

By Tracy Kennedy