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PHC Launches Drop-in Prenatal and Childbirth Prep Classes

Classes part of an integrated approach at Petaluma Health Center that include discussion about fetal development, nutrition, labor and delivery, breastfeeding and newborn care

Pregnant women and their partners will now have a new place in Petaluma to go to prepare for the birth of their baby, thanks to new prenatal and childbirth classes the  will offer starting next month. 

“There has always been a need for these types of classes in Petaluma," said LeAnn James, a certified nurse-midwife at the Petaluma Health Center, located at 1179 N. McDowell Blvd. "Historically the (Petaluma Valley) hospital has offered classes for families, but the problem was that they only were able to offer them in English and many of our families could not afford them.” 

With the closure of several maternity programs in Marin County and Rohnert Park, the classes couldn't come at a better time. 

But the new classes aren’t just your run of the mill birthing classes. As part of an integrated approach at PHC, clients will take a five-class series in fetal development, nutrition, labor and delivery, breastfeeding and newborn care. As clients at the center, they also have access to other services including dentists, nutritionists, behavioral health specialists and acupuncturists.

While there was a need to serve the Spanish-speaking community through classes and education, a common misconception is that Petaluma Health Center only serves those who either cannot afford services or who do not speak English. 

"Our goal is to provide quality care to everybody who needs and wants it," James said. "We have been doing this type of work with families on a limited basis but the size of our former facility kept us from expanding. It has been a goal for years to offer these types of services but now we can open them up for everyone in the community."

The Petaluma Health Center is second only to Kaiser in Sonoma County, serving 17,000 clients per year, according to Holly Butler, a spokeswoman for the center. The list of clients is set to grow this year to 21,000 and eventually to 35,000 once construction on the new facility is complete. 

For James, the new childbirth classes are a dream come true and are part of the center's committment to creating and sustaining healthy Petaluma families, she says.

"When you don’t know what to expect in labor and delivery it can be very scary," she said. "There is a confidence that comes with knowing. If you gain 50 pounds in a pregnancy, you find out that 20 come off right away, but then you are left with 30 pounds. It is confusing to people. Society tells them to eat for two. This is just based on not knowing enough about nutrition and how to care for your pregnant body. And prenatal classes can help."

Petaluma Health Center certified nurse-midwife Rebecca McLeod-Waldo, who created the series curriculum, will be teaching the five-week series of classes in English for clients starting on November 2 from 6 pm to 7:30 pm. The Spanish class series will begin on Thursday, November 10 from 10:30 to noon. Both English and Spanish classes will continue in a five-week series throughout 2011-2012.

Classes are free for PHC patients and $15 per session for non-patients. Drop-ins are OK. For more information about PHC services or classes or to make a prenatal appointment, call 707-559-7500 or 707-559-7525.

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