When I speak with pregnant or postpartum women about Nurture’s goal of opening a nonprofit resource center to support RVA’s childbearing families, they typically nod their heads in agreement saying “Oh yeah!” Their relief at the idea of a “home of their own” is almost palpable.
But when I talk about our vision with folks who are beyond the childbearing years, the response I get is often a question, “Don’t doctors and hospitals already take care of that?”
Our local health care providers and hospitals do indeed provide clinical maternity care. But much of what shapes the short and long-term health of expecting and new mothers and their babies occurs outside the walls of the hospital, doctor’s office, or clinic.
Nurture aims to address this gap. Our mission’s four pillars are evidence-based strategies for improving the health and well-being of childbearing families that are recommended by health-care practitioners and policymakers. Standing together, our pillars form a powerful structure for investing in our community’s greatest resource – our children Here are some examples:
FITNESS: The more physically active an expectant mother is, the lower her risk of gestational diabetes, birth complications and postpartum depression, and the less likely her child is to become overweight or obese. And pregnancy is an optimal time to begin healthy lifestyle habits. Yet access to specifically tailored programming for pregnant and postpartum mothers is limited to those that can afford to pay for these specialized services – leaving a large and vulnerable sector of our community out of the equation. Our goal is to level the playing field so that women can participate in this kind of programming regardless of financial circumstances.
EDUCATION: Evidence-based childbirth education and support services that promote informed decision-making, such as the use of doulas (trained birth attendants who provide physical and emotional support during pregnancy, birth and postpartum) are typically offered on a fee for service basis. Despite strong evidence that the presence of a doula can profoundly improve birth outcomes and save health care costs, they are often out of reach of the people who need them most. A perinatal resource center that operates on a sliding scale and partners with national organizations to establish community-based doula programs would help improve birth outcomes in our area.
SOCIAL SUPPORT: Access to peer and professional support are two evidence-based methods that improve breastfeeding rates. Yet Richmond has few lactation counselors and consultants working outside of clinic or hospital settings, and virtually none working in low-income neighborhoods. Ditto for peer breastfeeding counselors. A dedicated resource center offering centrally located professional and peer support for breastfeeding mothers as well as outreach programs for vulnerable populations would help move Richmond closer to the Healthy People 2020 Breastfeeding Goals.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: Improving the environment in which birth and early parenting takes place requires the commitment and collaboration of multiple stakeholders. For the past two years, working out of spare bedrooms and coffee shops with a tiny budget and oodles of volunteer effort, Nurture has fostered conversations across disciplines, institutions, and communities that are beginning to change the landscape of childbirth and early parenting through our sponsorship of continuing education programs for care providers and community engagement projects like #RVA Breastfeeds.
Imagine what we could do with a home of our own.
Childbirth and early parenting are one of life’s most significant transitions. The right support at the right time can profoundly impact health outcomes – setting our children and grandchildren up for a healthier life trajectory.
To make a maternity resource center a reality we need your support.
The beginning is now. Be amazing. Help raise a roof for Nurture with your donation of $50 or more during The Amazing Raise.
Leslie Lytle, MS, LCCE, RPYT, E-RYT500, is Nurture’s Founder and Executive Director