SASKATOON -- A Saskatoon woman is using her profession as an occupational therapist and her experience as a single mother to help other new moms and families.

Janelle Daku has a two-year-old daughter and said her experience as a new mom wasn’t what she expected.

“I had these feelings of shame, guilt. I had scary thoughts and also intrusive thoughts,” she said.

“I knew I that I needed help. It was impacting my relationships with my family, it was impacting my relationship with my daughter.”

Daku was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety at a late stage after her daughter was born.

“I was unable to find support during one of the most difficult times of my life,” she said.

So, Daku decided to use her experience as a paediatric and women’s health occupational therapist to start her own business, Family Foundations Therapy.

She said it fills the current gaps in the healthcare system and helps other new moms and families with things like sleeping schedules for infants, breastfeeding, postpartum supports, among many others.

“I want my business to be about well-being, about health, about being a preventative measure rather than responding to a mother when she is at her worst and trying to build her up from the ground.”

Daku started her business in early March, during a time where she said the need for support is even higher.

“COVID-19 has increased this anxiety that moms are dealing with ... Will my baby get ill? Will my baby have long-term effects from this? Can I leave the house?”

Janet Lee, an entrepreneur and an ambassador for Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan (WESK), said it’s important to empower women to start their own businesses even during challenging times such as this.

“Many women have lost their jobs or have increased responsibilities at home. And so, starting your own business can give you that control of your destiny that many of us feel isn’t there during a pandemic,” Lee said.

Daku said only 15 per cent of women that experience a perinatal mental illness are getting professional help.

She said that could be because of stigma or simply not knowing those supports are out there — something Daku is hoping to change.

“We need to start providing tools and strategies for these moms to be able to get through this time and to be the best support for their infants and their children, in order for those children and infants to grow and develop into healthy adults.”