ABCs of prenatal care at Southlake Regional Health Centre

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For most women pregnancy is one of the most exciting times in their lives. But for some, it can be an anxious time especially for those who don’t have a family doctor. In April of this year, Southlake’s Maternal Child Program opened its A Baby’s Coming (ABC) prenatal clinic to respond to the needs of women who are new to northern York Region and have been unsuccessful in finding a family doctor or whose GP does not provide prenatal care. The clinic is currently offered once a month and has seen a total of 29 and referred four women to date.

“The idea to offer the service had been in the pipeline for a while,” said the clinic’s obstetrician Dr Genevieve Chang. “Many people are moving here [to York Region] and their doctors are based in Toronto. This means they end up delivering at a Toronto hospital instead closer to home where they can enjoy the experience surrounded by friends and family.”

The clinic, which is the only one in York Region, is operated out of the Southlake’s Birthing Unit and ensures that women don’t miss out on vital tests in the first trimester of their pregnancy. It also provides women with the opportunity to become familiar with both the physical surroundings and the staff at Southlake prior to their delivery. Once enrolled, women are scheduled to see the clinic’s doctor and nurse once a month from the time they learn they are pregnant until they are referred to an obstetrician or midwife of their choice between 26 and 28 weeks gestation. At the clinic they receive prenatal screening and if they are found to be ‘high risk’ they are referred to an obstetrician sooner. A number of health-care professionals and support services are also offered at the clinic including a dietician and prenatal education.

“Because there is consistency in care we build a rapport with the women, which allows us to pick up or detect any abnormalities with their pregnancy. It’s the little things that we are able to pick up that might not seem like anything to them but are important to us as health professionals,” said Sheena Shannon, the clinic’s nurse and first point of contact for the clinic’s patients.

For patient Holly Farrow, the clinic has proven to be invaluable. Just under four months ago Holly, a 29-year-old diabetic, discovered she was pregnant. She and her partner, who moved to the Newmarket area five years ago, had not needed a family doctor. Holly, whose first pregnancy miscarried said, “I had no clue what to do or where to go. I knew that it was difficult to find a family doctor in the area so I called the hospital. I ended up explaining my situation to the operator who let me know about the A Baby’s Coming clinic and an appointment was set up for me for the following week.”

Holly’s case is not a typical one. Her pregnancy is considered high risk due to her diabetes, but because an obstetrician currently runs the clinic, she is able to receive the majority of her prenatal care close to home. To date her pregnancy has been a normal one and since her first appointment at the clinic in August, Holly has been set up with a diabetes specialist that she sees once a week. Her insulin dosage and medication have been changed and she has been educated on nutrition during pregnancy. “I have been diabetic for 14 years, but hadn’t seen a specialist for my diabetes in over ten years. I relied on exercise and a healthy diet to stay healthy,” said Holly. She has also seen an eye specialist since vision is a concern for pregnant women who are diabetic, and is scheduled to visit Sick Kids in Toronto for a specialized ultrasound of the baby’s heart. Apart from her visit to Sick Kids all of Holly’s appointments have been local.

“The whole experience has been a positive one for me,” said Holly who has found a family doctor and will remain a patient of Dr. Chang’s. “Staff in the clinic has taken care of every aspect of my health so far during my pregnancy. Sheena makes sure that my appointments fit in with my other commitments so their flexibility is great. The last thing you want to worry about is your care when you are meant to be concentrating on staying healthy, especially in my case.”