Northern Haida Gwaii perinatal group clinics

  • Apr. 12, 2010 7:00 p.m.

Submitted by Shannon Greenwood–It’s the first Tuesday of the month and several families are gathering for a nutritious meal at the Haida Health Centre in Old Massett. Mothers in various stages of gestation, dads carrying infants, older siblings and community care providers fill a plate and enjoy their meal together. Everyone has gathered together for the Perinatal Group Clinic (PNGC), where pregnant women, their partners, and families with infants up to 6 months can access information, have a meal and a prenatal checkup with the doctor, with valuable peer support. Moms and dads share experiences and challenges around their pregnancy, labour, birth, breastfeeding, infant care and parenting. The PNGCs, (a partnership between Northern Health and the Old Massett Band Council), have been running for four years. They were started by Dr. Vanita Lokanathan and Sheena Howard RN, care providers and facilitators and parents.The PNGC brings together professionals and islanders with a focus on peer support and empowerment for families transitioning into parenting. One aspect that makes the PNGC so successful is the attendance of a diverse team of care providers. Along with a doctor, clinics are attended by a Community Health Nurse, a clinic assistant, a Childbirth Educator/Doula, and a Registered Dietitian. Recently, a midwife and a Post Partum doula have joined the team. Each care provider adds a unique focus and knowledge to support the group. The result is a truly holistic model, enhanced by peer learning. The evening begins with a dinner and a discussion where all participants get a chance to ask a focus question or share a success or concern with the group. One dad said he felt the PNGC was “a community gathering where people going through the same thing were coming together to share the goods and the bads”.Throughout the evening, women and their partners go to the doctor’s clinic where they receive a prenatal check. One doctor said she felt the PNGC were a part of providing “preventative medicine.” She also said “we know that good prenatal care improves outcomes for both mother and child and that prenatal education improves birth outcomes”. The PNGC has attracted many people from northern Haida Gwaii. The main sentiment expressed by moms when asked what they loved best about the it was the sharing with other moms”. A mom who participated in the clinics throughout her pregnancy and into her postpartum period, said she felt that both the peer and professional support really supported her pregnancy. One care provider, who recently became a participant, said she felt the PNGC was a place to celebrate pregnancy. The wise words of many nonnies who attend add valuable learning opportunities. As stated by our wonderful cook and a new grandmother, “If you want to raise fabulous children you have to be prepared to do a fabulous job of parenting!” Many moms and their partners also loved the excellent dinner. The atmosphere at the clinics is relaxed and supportive, providing many poignant moments. At the end of the evening, there’s a lingering feeling of warmth and the realization that everyone is part of a community that is learning and growing together.