Stork’s Nest provides health tips to pregnant moms

Mothers who completed the Stork's Nest program hold up their babies at a graduation ceremony at the end of May.

Mothers receive incentives for healthy behaviors and habits
Mothers receive incentives for healthy behaviors and habits

The San Benito County Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition celebrated its first graduation ceremony for the Stork’s Nest program since the program was reinstated two years ago.

“It is a health education program that was created by the March of Dimes,” said Catherine Farnham, perinatal services coordinator for the county. “The core curriculum is to make mom healthier so there is less pre-term birth and less birth defects.”

The program used to be a one-on-one case management program for pregnant, low-income mothers from pregnancy up to when their child was 1 year old. Now the program is conducted in a group setting, where mothers learn about a variety of subjects related to fetal and infant care. For participating in the program and engaging in healthy activities, the mothers are rewarded with items such as new or nearly new strollers, high chairs, booster chairs, baby carriers, clothing, bassinets or toys for their babies.

Every three months, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies hosts the Stork’s Nest store, where mothers can use their rewards to get baby items such as the strollers, carriers and other items donated to the program. The mothers need to call ahead to make a shopping appointment so Farnham and the others involved can make sure there are enough items and that the items are appropriate for the age of the baby.

Farnham said the March of Dimes, which is focused on lowering the rate of birth defects, has focused on pre-term labor for its last two grant cycles.

“The rate is increasing and it costs a lot of money,” she said. “It cost a lot in the (neonatal intensive care unit), but

it also costs down the road when children are not ready for school or require other special education.”

A full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks and the March of Dimes suggests mothers wait until at least 39 weeks to induce labor or have a c-section. Pre-term labor is any delivery before 37 weeks gestation. Farnham said the rate of premature and micro-preemies is increasing. The terms are based on the weight of the baby at birth, not the time of gestation.

Farnham said the county uses the WIC and Healthy Families guidelines to decide if pregnant women meet the low-income requirements for the program, but she said she has never had to turn anyone away from the program.

“It rewards healthy behaviors,” she said.

Registered nurses Lisa Robinson and Rosa Roberts work with the participants throughout their pregnancies and their children’s first year. Robinson is also a lactation consultant.

Some of the topics covered in the orientation included early and continuous prenatal care, taking folic acid during pregnancy, dental care for the mother and infant, breastfeeding, tobacco and substance use cessation and more. The staff members also offer referrals to other agencies in the community such as safety and domestic violence resources, counseling or other services. It also talks about physical activity and fitness during pregnancy, early literacy and more.

“During the orientation we talk about a lot of things in an hour,” Farnham said. “It’s a lot more information than is recommended to give in that time. But we give them a few sentences on each topic.”

The mothers get written information that offers more in-depth information as well as referrals to other sources.

At the recent graduation, the participating mothers received a certificate from the March of Dimes and were treated to a lunch as well as cupcakes. The lunch was provided with a grant from the Women’s Club while First 5 San Benito shared information about other services for the moms, such as a playgroup program. The First Presbyterian Church offered the use of a room for the graduation. Supervisor Margie Barrios, Hollister City Councilwoman Pauline Valdivia, and Gary Byrne, of the Community Foundation for San Benito County, attended the event.

The graduation also offered a chance to find out what information the mothers found useful and what information was surprising to them. One thing that came up was that pregnant women are entitled to dental exams and cleanings because dental infections can affect the fetus or a breastfeeding infant. Most of the mothers did not know that before the program. They also did not know that a baby’s stomach is the size of a marble when it is first born, and just the size of a ping pong ball after a few weeks.

“The number one complaint is that the baby is spitting up,” Farnham said, of teaching the women why babies need small, frequent meals.

They also learned about changes to the car seat laws, which now requires children up to 8 years old or under 4’9” to be secured in a booster seat. Many mothers also commented that they didn’t know about parenting class or library services available in the community.

Pregnant moms are recruited for the program at the San Benito Health Foundation and Hazel Hawkins Health Clinic, though others can participate. An orientation is held about once a month, with the most recent one held Thursday after deadline. The next orientation will be June 7. In the last two years, 110 women have enrolled in the program.

Farnham said she hopes to have a graduation ceremony every six months for those who have completed the program.

“We just try to do the best we can to connect people with services,” Farnham said.

March for San Benito Babies

Residents from San Benito are invited to join the March of Dimes Walk on May 19, in Pacific Grove. The local team, dubbed March for San Benito Babies, has a goal of raising at least $1,000 for the national nonprofit.

This year Catherine Farnham invited a couple from south San Jose and their son to be ambassadors for the team after San Benito families with a pre-term baby declined to participate. Zackary Crego, now 16 months, was due in March 2011. Kelly Crego, his mother, was surprised when she began to go into labor on Christmas Day. It was 10 weeks before Zackary’s due date. She and husband Rick welcomed Zackary that afternoon. He was 3 lbs., 9 oz. and 17 inches long.

The baby was placed in the NICU, where he received a variety of medications that have been developed with funding from March of Dimes. The couple visited daily. The baby did not need a ventilator, but he was kept in the hospital until Feb. 20 when the Cregos finally got to bring him home.

Kelly Crego said in her ambassador story for the team’s website that she had multiple tests done but doctors could not pinpoint what caused the preterm labor and delivery. The family made a donation to March of Dimes last year and decided to be active participants with the Marching for San Benito Babies team this May.

All the money raised will go to the March of Dimes national headquarters. San Benito County’s coalition applies for grants through the March of Dimes to benefit local residents.

To make a donation to the team or to join, visit www.marchforbabies.org/team/t1734912. For more on the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of San Benito County, visit www.janetgrahamfund.org.

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