Imagine How it Feels: An Untold Story of Expectant Mothers

Imagine how it feels to be expecting a baby for the first time. Perhaps it is a time of great excitement and happy anticipation. A woman with an education and a steady job with health insurance can access early prenatal care, buy healthy food, and can even see a mental health provider should the need arise. She rests easy knowing that her baby will come home to a safe environment containing all the baby supplies that might be needed. Although she may experience worry or fear related to all the changes a baby brings to a mother’s life, she has a strong circle of support from her partner, family, and friends. The chances are good that the baby will be born full-term at a healthy weight, and that the mom will get adequate postpartum follow-up care. The baby will have a strong foundation to develop, learn and grow physically, emotionally, socially, and cognitively through a secure attachment to the mother.

Now imagine what it is like to be a young woman who is not as prepared to care for her first baby. Perhaps it is a time of great distress and anxiety. A woman who has not completed her education, does not have a job that pays a living wage and has no health insurance is challenged to find prenatal care, provide healthy food and safe and stable housing for herself. Perhaps her own childhood was lived in poverty in an unstable home exposed to family violence, or drug and alcohol use. Perhaps she does not have a stable partner, or family, or friends, and she is feeling depressed and alone. These situations present risks to the health of the baby and mother including pregnancy complications that can result in preterm birth or low birth weight, insecure bonding and depression.

Now imagine an alternate scenario with the young woman who is not as prepared to be pregnant and parent. Early in her pregnancy, a registered nurse with Colorado’s statewide Nurse-Family PartnershipⓇ program reaches out to her. This nurse visits the woman in her home from as early in pregnancy as possible and continues to visit her until the child turns two years old. The nurse forms a therapeutic relationship with the woman whereby they identify the pregnant woman’s strengths and goals for herself and her baby in order to ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby, to learn about child development so as to promote a positive parenting relationship, and to work toward her own economic self-sufficiency. The nurse helps the woman access prenatal, pediatric, and mental health care for herself and child. The nurse teaches the woman about healthy behaviors such as good pregnancy nutrition, exercise, and ways to cope with stress. The woman receives assistance with breast-feeding, learns about parenting, child growth and development, and is supported in her goals for family planning, work, and school. She becomes connected to community resources to ensure she has what she needs to be a successful parent.

Nurse-Family Partnership in Colorado has helped over 26,000 families raise healthy children who are prepared for school. These mothers achieve their goals for education and work, making them economically self-sufficient. Additionally, Nurse-Family Partnership has had great ROI for Colorado communities. For every $1 invested in the program, society realizes more than a $5 return through increased tax revenues from higher rates of employment and decreased expenditures in Medicaid and other assistance programs.

May 12-14 is National Women’s Health Week, which serves as a reminder for women to make their health a priority and build positive health habits for life. The Nurse-Family Partnership helps women make positive steps towards taking control of their health. For more information on Nurse-Family Partnership in Colorado, contact Michelle Neal at .