Jennifer Price, program coordinator, leads The March of Dimes Supportive Pregnancy Care at Hollywood Primary Care.

If pregnancy is a journey sometimes it helps to have friends along for the ride. That’s part of the idea with the new March of Dimes Supportive Pregnancy Care program at Regional One Health Hollywood Primary Care.

Pregnancy is a time filled with a gamut of emotions. Every expectant mother’s experience is different, but having a support system in place is helpful in navigating the path through pregnancy.

The March of Dimes Supportive Pregnancy Care is that support system and is available to low-risk, healthy expectant mothers with no prenatal issues who are patients at Hollywood Primary Care. The program is open to first-time mothers as well as women who already have children and even have participated in the program previously.

“They just love our concept,” said Jennifer Price, program coordinator at Hollywood Primary Care.

“They’re bonding and developing friendships even outside prenatal care. They stay in contact even after they deliver.”

Hollywood Primary Care staff recruit patients as early in pregnancy as possible. Expectant mothers join groups of between eight and 10 based on trimester. The women meet as a group for a series of educational life sessions to talk about everything from breastfeeding and how to take care of their health to postpartum concerns and baby care.

The March of Dimes Supportive Pregnancy Care is for expectant moms, moms that have children and moms who have previously attended

Each group meets in 10 sessions with the ultimate goal of teaching participants how to take control of her own care, which includes learning how to take and record vital signs. The discussion topics sometimes veer off the planned session if the patients decide they need to talk about something else in that moment. Speakers from outside agencies also discuss pertinent issues and are there to provide additional resources that are beneficial to the expectant mothers.

Groups meet on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Each session lasts about an hour and a half. The first four sessions are spaced a month apart then four visits that are every other week. Once women get to 35 weeks they come weekly.

While group sessions occur, women individually meet with a nurse midwife in an adjoining space for their prenatal care. The midwives also participate in the discussions.

“When I say circle up that’s all of us,” Price said. “We share personal things about ourselves. We have a great dialogue going among all of us.”

The March of Dimes Supportive Pregnancy Care model is customizable and focuses on social support, health education and skill-building in a group experience. The pilot program, which began recording data in April and runs through June 30, 2018, also is underway in other Tennessee health care systems in Knoxville, Nashville and Johnson City.

The March of Dimes support of the Regional One Health Supportive Pregnancy program is new this year, but a prenatal care group has met at Hollywood Primary Care since 2005. The program originally started as part of the Centering Healthcare Institute’s CenteringPregnancy effort.

“We could see a difference in patient education and the infant mortality rate dropping,” said Toni Hampton, program coordinator at Hollywood Primary Care.

Making a difference in prenatal care sometimes is as simple as a reminder to take prenatal vitamins. Other times it’s helping teen mothers with the logistics of continuing her education while caring for a baby.

But it all starts with gaining trust, especially with younger mothers who look up to their peers in the sessions as well as Regional One Health staff.

For all Hollywood Primary Care patients, the March of Dimes Supportive Pregnancy Care program is just one of many ways the clinic provides support to patients.

“When you’re pregnant you have so many needs that you’re not aware of,” Hampton said. “We’re a wealth of resources. … We’re patient focused, and our little ones deserve just as much care as our older ones.”

The March of Dimes Supportive Pregnancy Care program is available to any expectant mother who becomes a patient at Hollywood Primary Care. For more information about joining the program, please call 901-515-5500 or visit Hollywood Primary Care’s webpage.