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Celebrating life and womanhood is an everyday occurrence at PeaceHealth’s Obstetrics and Gynecology clinics throughout Whatcom County. Nurse Midwife Dana Hansen recently sat down with WhatcomTalk to highlight PeaceHealth’s rebooted Centering Pregnancy program and chat about enhanced midwifery services.

More Midwives at Clinics

To better serve gynecological and pregnancy care needs, PeaceHealth recently bolstered its team of providers by adding more midwives.

“We have seven midwives that work a regular position at PeaceHealth and two midwives with many years of experience who fill in when we need coverage for vacations” says Hansen. “We’ve increased how many patients we see each month. We used to be limited to a certain number of patients [but] the numbers have almost doubled.”

The additional midwives have greatly improved patient access to routine checkups like annual exams. Now, PeaceHealth’s OB/GYN clinics have the ability to add more essential services and preventative healthcare.

“It feels really nice because that’s what we’ve really wanted to do,” Hansen says. “We do gynecologic and women’s health from puberty through age 65, with prenatal care and deliveries at the hospital. We also have four locations. The hospital is where we deliver. We now have midwives in clinic at Squalicum, Lynden, and Sedro-Woolley.”

Nurse Midwife Dana Hansen. Photo courtesy of PeaceHealth by Mark Turner

Centering Pregnancy Program

The clinics recently resumed their wildly successful Centering Pregnancy program, which was paused during COVID.

“It’s a different model for providing prenatal care,” says Hansen. “The visits are on the same standardized schedule, so you meet once a month until the third trimester, when you start meeting twice a month. Instead of having 20-minute office visits one-on-one with your provider, you have 2-hour interactive visits with up to 10 other families who are expecting during the same month you are.”

Through the Centering Pregnancy program, PeaceHealth strives to connect families going through the same phase in life and build a village of support.

“It’s a guided curriculum where you go through all the things you can expect at different stages; the amount of information that can be exchanged is exponential to what you’re going to get in a 20-minute visit,” Hansen says. “The whole philosophy behind Centering is that, when you have 20 people in a room, they all have the shared knowledge and experiences necessary to have a healthy pregnancy. You encourage and facilitate your cohort to share the information they already have by making it interactive.”

Rather than following regimented guidelines, the midwives lead the discussion and let participants take it from there.

“We ask the group what they are thinking about and, once we get them going, they answer each other’s questions and discuss things amongst themselves,” says Hansen. “There are rare occasions where we debunk false information.”

Hansen notes the method has been proven to improve health outcomes for moms and babies throughout all phases of pregnancy. Not to mention, the mental health benefits are invaluable.

“I have patients from my first couple years at Centering that I’m still in touch with, and I still go to the kids’ birthday parties,” she says. “Those groups are all still friends with each other, too. It’s about developing a community with people in the same phase of life, and it really does, I hope, create a lifelong bond for these families and these kiddos.”

Above all, the Centering Pregnancy program provides a safe space for participants to be vulnerable and talk about difficult topics without judgement or reproach, and even serves as a resource for help beyond pregnancy.

“The connection they have improves health outcomes for everyone in every capacity,” says Hansen. “They just continue sharing knowledge with each other.”

More Accessible Services

While most often associated with childbirth, PeaceHealth’s midwives provide a comprehensive range of services to women of all ages, with a focus on healthy lifestyles and prevention of complications.

“We cover any kind of problem for a gynecological visit, like abnormal bleeding, pregnancy prevention, contraceptive visits, preventative healthcare, prenatal care and postpartum care,” Hansen says. “We do a lot of mood disorder screenings in postpartum and treatment referrals to mental health. It’s all-encompassing preventative healthcare.”

She added, “Midwifery has a bit of a different philosophy,” says Hansen. “We specialize in normal and low-risk [gynecological care], pregnancy and birth; those women that are healthy and generally uncomplicated — we are generally lower intervention. We believe in pregnancy as a phase in life, not a medical condition. I think it’s really a difference in philosophy where you’re providing more holistic, personal care.”

Visit the PeaceHealth website for more information about PeaceHealth’s Obstetrics and Gynecology clinics and locations.

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