Answering Your Strong Start Maternity Center Questions

Last week as part of our celebration of the FIRST BIRTH at Strong Start Maternity Center (hip-hip-hooray for healthy baby Stanley!), we asked YOU what you would like to know about Second Mile Haiti'’s relatively new maternal health program.

You asked some great questions, so let’s get to them!

Q: How many pregnant women are currently on the waiting list to give birth at Strong Start Maternity Center?

A: There are currently 76 women on the calendar set to give birth in the next nine months. This number will likely keep climbing every month until we hit our maximum capacity. We are committed to serving as many women as we can while maintaining the high standard of care.

Shout out to our Fierce Community whose support makes this all possible!

Q. How long will women receive care after their birth?

A: When women come to Strong Start Maternity Center in labor, we support and monitor them through their labor and assist them as they give birth. After baby is born, we encourage the mother to stay at Strong Start for a minimum of 24 hours. After that period, if everything looks good, we send mom and baby home. If there’s a problem, we keep monitoring them at our center for 72 hours. If they have complications that require them to be transferred to a hospital during this time, we transfer them.

Q: How do Strong Start Maternity Staff respond in the case of complications? What is the plan in the case if emergencies?

A: We have a comprehensive list of criteria to determine when we would transfer a woman to a hospital. This could happen during the course of prenatal care, such as in the case of preeclampsia or severe anemia. Anytime there’s an emergency during labor, we have our transfer vehicle on site and all of our staff are trained on the emergency plan, from making sure the driver gets notified immediately, to putting the oxygen tank in the car, to grabbing the emergency birth kit so that we can monitor the woman’s vital signs and potentially deliver a baby in the car. All of the nurses and midwives are trained in best practices in monitoring so that we can anticipate problems and act quickly if it becomes clear that a women will not be able to give birth with us.

The hospital where we transfer women, Hospital Sacre Couer, is a reputable hospital about 15 minutes away where we have great relationships with doctors and staff. For each case, we call them in advance so that the woman gets checked into the hospital with all of the relevant information that we have on her case.

Obviously we hope that hospital transfers don’t need to happen often, but we are well prepared and connected for when they do!

Q: Do women served at Strong Start Maternity Center also receive educational classes like caregivers at the Malnutrition Treatment Center? Are these women also supported in starting businesses?

A: Women who come to the Strong Start Maternity Center do not receive business kits, but we do offer educational opportunities at Strong Start for women who come for prenatal care. Throughout their pregnancies, these women have access to a series of prenatal classes. There are eight subjects in total, and each Thursday we cycle through one of the eight subjects. Women keep a punch card so that they can keep track of the number of classes they have attended, and this corresponds to slightly discounted rates for delivery assistance at the Center. The regular price for birth care is 500 gourdes (just over $6 US). The discounted rate for women who attend at least four prenatal classes is 400 gourdes (just less than $5 US), and for women who attend all eight classes, it is reduced to 300 gourdes (or $3.70 US). We believe that most women would opt to attend as many classes as possible regardless of the discount, but we like to sweeten the deal as an extra incentive to attend all eight classes. The discount may also serve as a “good excuse” for women who have many other responsibilities and family pressures.

The class subjects are:

  1. Pregnancy 101: The adults who enter Second Mile Haiti’s centers average a third to fourth grade education level, so many missed the classic sperm-meets-the-egg talk. In this class, we talk about what to expect during pregnancy, the biological processes that lead to conception, and everything that’s happening during the body during pregnancy.

  2. Prenatal care: In this class, we demystify the care that women receive during prenatal visits by explaining what kind of care women will receive during prenatal visits and why. We go over what to expect during an ultrasounds; why we preform various tests, and what we will do to provide care or transfer to hospital in case we find an issue through these tests.

  3. Protecting yourself during pregnancy. In this class we go over danger signs, how women can identify if they are experiencing these signs, and how they can get help if they are in danger.

  4. Nutrition and pregnancy: Here we talk about how paying attention to what women eat while they’re pregnant can give their babies a strong start and keep mom healthy!

  5. Preparing for delivery: In this class, we go over what to expect throughout the process of labor and share some techniques for dealing with the pain of labor. This is also a great chance for first-timers to learn from the stories and experiences of other moms who have been through it before.

  6. Nourishment for newborns. In this class we look at everything that baby will need in his or her first days and months out in the world, and of course, the wonderful and wild world of breastfeeding.

  7. Early care for newborns. Any mom can relate to the question: What do I need to do for my baby when they’re first born? And what do I do if something goes wrong? In this class we answer those questions and identify signs that a baby is sick and needs care.

  8. The postpartum period. Lest we forget this extremely important topic! In this class, women learn practical tips and tools on how to best take care of themselves after their birth, plus suggestions that they can share with friends and family who are available to help out. We also go over postpartum depression, family planning, and what to expect when becoming sexually active again.

Q: What are all of the prenatal services that women receive at the Strong Start Maternity Center?

All of the prenatal services that we provide at the Strong Start Maternity Center are intended to give each woman a strong foundation of health and knowledge so that she can keep herself and her child as healthy as possible.

Aside from offering a woman the series of eight educational classes described above, we also perform lab tests for hemoglobin, STI’s, and UTI’s; we check her weight and blood pressure; we predict her due date through ultrasounds; and we check the woman’s fundal height (aka belly size) to make sure baby is growing at a healthy rate. Women also receive vitamins and family planning services.

This is all done to identify any complications as soon as possible and to make sure that each woman receives the proper care for her unique pregnancy.

If we do identify complications, we can treat many of them in-house at the Strong Start Maternity Center. We regularly treat UTI’s, STI’s such a syphilis for the women and her partner(s), mild to moderate anemia, high blood pressure due to chronic hypertension, and mild to moderate malnutrition. Women with malnutrition receive the nutritional supplement Plumpy’Sup which is similar to what malnourished children receive at Second Mile’s Treatment Center.

Some complications necessitate transfer to a hospital, which we facilitate. We refer women to hospitals for HIV/AIDS, severe anemia, severe malnutrition, or preeclampsia.

Q: How do women in need of your service find you?

A: At the very beginning, Second Mile Haiti staff did walk-throughs in surrounding areas to let people know that we were about to open the Strong Start Maternity Center and to give information about the hours of operation. We also posted a few signs in nearby communities that remind women of the three days of the week that we’re open for prenatal visits. Since then, women let each other know through word-of-mouth. We keep receiving more and more women each month, so our relatively passive marketing strategy seems to be effective!

Q: How can I support the Strong Start Maternity Center?

I’m glad you’re asking! There are a few things we need your help with.

  1. We need more supporters to give monthly.

  2. We need more supporters to give monthly.

  3. We need more supporters to give monthly.

I said there were a few things we needed your help with but… really it comes down to just one.

We still need 23 friends to join the “Fierce 40.” The Fierce 40 are monthly donors who give any amount of their choosing each month to sustain the services we provide at the Strong Start Maternity Center. If you see the value in the services we provide and think that women in Haiti should have access to these services, please join the Fierce 40 today!

We couldn’t do this without your support. Thank you!

Mirvensly and Dawensly