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September blew in like a big, swift breeze for Nurture, catching our board and committees just as we turned our attention to preparing for our first Amazing Raise and committed to applying for the newly offered Robins Foundation Community Innovation Grant.

We could not be busier – or more committed to our vision – as we move Nurture forward by exploring collaborations with other organizations and diving deeper into our vision for a dedicated maternity resource center for Richmond families. As more and more organizations express interest in working with us, we feel like we’ve struck a deep chord in the community.

That begs the question – Why Nurture? Why Now?  Why should our community become more aware and supportive of women’s health and social needs during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period? Isn’t this just an issue for families that are having babies?

Why should we pay attention?

Here’s why.

  • Because what happens during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period profoundly affects women’s current and long-term health as well as the life trajectory of the next generation.
  • Because women lack access to full, balanced information on the risks, benefits, and alternatives associated with various childbirth and postpartum practices.
  • Because the U.S. spends far more money per capita on maternity and newborn care than most industrialized countries, but falls behind in perinatal morbidity and mortality.
  • Because access to resources and maternal/infant health outcomes are significantly influenced by one’s race, ethnicity, and economic circumstances.
  • Because breastfeeding is one of the most effective measures a mother can take to protect the health of her baby and herself – yet mothers face many social, environmental, and logistical barriers to successful breastfeeding.
  • Because having a baby is a big deal.

Every year, approximately 14,000 women give birth in the Richmond Metropolitan Area. That’s a lot of women and a lot of babies. What would happen if our community put its energy behind getting our newest families off to the best possible start?

An emerging body of evidence suggests what happens during pregnancy, birth, and the early parenting period has a life-long impact on our children’s health and wellbeing.  Because of the importance of this critical life transition, Nurture envisions a dedicated maternity center built on these four pillars: move, learn, connect, inspire.

These pillars are directly related to our mission activities of fitness, education, social support and community engagement. Our  founding board spent a lot of time honing our mission down to these four focus areas. We think enacting them will make a huge difference in the longterm health of our community. Here’s why:

Move: Fitness Classes for Pregnancy and Postpartum

1Women’s physical health during the pregnancy and postpartum period profoundly affects their childbirth outcome and the long-term health of their babies. Women who exercise regularly throughout pregnancy gain less weight, experience shorter labors, require fewer medical interventions, have easier postpartum recoveries and a more positive self-image. Their babies have a lower risk of being born significantly bigger than average, and tend to tolerate labor better. Exercise during pregnancy appears to reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, which is associated with Type II Diabetes later in life for both mothers and babies. Exercise also lessens the symptoms of perinatal mood disorders and facilitates postpartum recovery.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that low-risk pregnant women exercise at at least 30 minutes at moderate intensity levels on most, if not all days of the week. Yet only 15.1% of pregnant women currently exercise at the recommended levels, and many women cannot afford to participate in exercise programs designed for the perinatal period. We hope to level the playing field by making a variety of specifically targeted fitness and yoga programs available for our community’s pregnant and postpartum moms.

Learn: Education for Expectant and New Parents

SliderBeachBall.jpgAccording to Childbirth Connection, helping women and their partners become engaged and active participants in their maternity care promotes better health outcomes and plays an important role in fostering improvement in maternity care quality and systems performance.

Our goal is to develop comprehensive, evidence-based classes for expecting and new parents to help them navigate the complexities of our healthcare system, as well as become informed consumers about the many physical, emotional, and social changes that accompany the transition into parenthood.

Connect: Social Support and Access to Community Resources

ConnectChildbirth is more than a medical event: it is a deeply meaningful process that can be profoundly transformative and empowering. While access to good clinical care is essential, what happens in women’s everyday lives critically influences their experience and outcomes. The ability to connect with other women who are at a similar stage of the reproductive life cycle promotes horizontal learning as women tap into their collective wisdom and form supportive friendships. These social connections can powerfully influence emotional wellbeing. Our goal is to provide a variety of support programs where community members at different stages of pregnancy and postpartum come together to learn with and from each other.

Access to needed resources is also critical: Nurture wants to be a hub for the community by building a comprehensive, curated online resource directory to help parents and professionals connect to pregnancy, birth, and early parenting resources in the Richmond Metropolitan Area and on the web.

Inspire: Community Engagement and Professional Development

InspireIn order to make meaningful, lasting change for Richmond’s childbearing families, it will take a coordinated approach that includes all of our local stakeholders – parents, professionals, policymakers and the community that surrounds us. Collaboration is central to our mission. Whether it’s raising community awareness about the importance of breastfeeding or providing continuing education opportunities for childbirth and early parenting care providers, we hope to inspire action that transforms the local environment in which women give birth.

We have big dreams for Richmond. We believe the creation of a nonprofit center for childbearing families in RVA would not only help reduce the economic and human costs of poor outcomes in our community, it would send a powerful message to our newest families: You are important. Your children matter. We are here for you.

That’s why. Help us do this now.

Donate to Nurture during The Amazing Raise, September 17 – 18.

The Amazing Raise is our region’s 36-hour online giving challenge that inspires and empowers our community to support Central Virginia nonprofit organizations in an amazing way, regardless of where you call home. When  you give during The Amazing Raise, you also give your favorite nonprofits the chance to win additional incentive prizes ranging from $500 to $15,000!


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