JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
Parents expecting a new child, even experienced parents with more than one child already at home, can feel overwhelmed at times.
The 59th Medical Wing helps alleviate some concerns with information, advice and companionship through the Centering for Pregnancy program at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center.
“Moms come in and complete their individual assessments where staff listen to baby’s heart tones, do the appropriate measurements, and go over any concerns moms have,” said Monica Wheaton, Women’s Health Clinic certified nurse midwife. “We call it ‘tummy time,’ where we see each patient individually. Moms keep their information in their personal ‘OB Passports,’ along with the staff keeping official patient records. This allows for more participation in the overall process.”
Women are encouraged to start attending sessions once they come in for their first OB/GYN appointment, usually around 16-20 weeks into the pregnancy.
“This is my second session and so far, I’m really liking it,” said Airman 1st Class Brooke Martinez, a mental health technician who is at the 22-week mark in her first pregnancy. “I think there are a lot of valuable lessons in this program, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity to take it.”
Each group session lasts approximately two hours which allows time for individual and group activities.
“The benefit of the group is that you have more time to cover topics,” said Airman 1st Class Mary Lankford, Women’s Health Clinic medical technician. “When you have feedback from the different women involved in that group, they have a lot of beneficial input. We have [participants] that have [children already] and we have new moms. Even the new moms have had very helpful suggestions or resources they had found and shared.”
Lankford serves as one of the facilitators for the group sessions and answers questions moms may have regarding their pregnancies and encourages participation in group activities.
Moms, however, are not the only members of the groups. Dads, parents and other family members or friends of the mom-to-be can participate.
Although moms are encouraged to join the group early in the pregnancy, they are welcome to come in anytime.
“If they’re new to the area, they don’t know people so we really try to encourage them, if they have the time, to join the group – no matter what stage the group is,” Wheaton said. “It helps them become a little bit more acquainted with some moms and learn more about resources available.”
In addition, Wheaton and the other facilitators have subject matter experts come in to discuss various topics including: breastfeeding, physical therapy and family advocacy.
“It creates an atmosphere for the women to feel more comfortable,” Lankford said. “It gives them a lot more resources and allows them to ask more questions.”
Expecting mothers are placed in a group based on their expected due date. Each group averages 10 moms, with meeting times available in the morning or afternoon, and meets monthly during the early portion of the pregnancy. Around the eighth month, the groups start meeting every two weeks.
After moms deliver their babies, there is one more “reunion” group session.
“That’s my favorite session,” Lankford said. “All the babies are so cute. It’s really fun seeing how everyone’s baby looks. It’s just really fun seeing how they interact with each other.”
Wheaton said the moms, and dads, who attend the sessions form strong bonds over the course of the program.
The Centering for Pregnancy program is available for any prospective mothers who can use the facilities at WHASC.