Maternal Health

LA Health Center Makes Midwifery Services Available to All Women

When Carmen Escobedo found out she was pregnant with her first child, she immediately began to seek out the best medical care available.

“I knew I wanted a midwife,” said Carmen, who is due in late September. “That was very important to me.”

That desire led Carmen to the Eisner Pediatric & Family Medical Center’s Women’s Health Center. Eisner is home to the only midwifery program hosted by a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in the Los Angeles area. Direct Relief has partnered with Eisner since 2008.

When Carmen learned she could deliver in a hospital setting with a midwife, that she’d have the option of a water birth, and that Eisner was close to her house, she knew it was the right place for care during her pregnancy.

Carmen enrolled in the CenteringPregnancy® program, which places pregnant women in support groups of other pregnant women with similar due dates. Eisner is one of three agencies in southern California that offer the unique program.

Run by a nurse-midwife (the same one that attends the deliveries of each woman in their group), the 10-session program helps women learn together throughout their pregnancy.

“It is good to have women around you who are experiencing the same things right alongside you,” said Carmen. “You don’t feel alone about what is happening with your body and your baby. It’s reassuring.”

Nicole Alton, Eisner’s Director of Pharmacy Services, said she’s noticed increasing demand for deliveries by midwives. She said that especially for patients who have emigrated from countries such as Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico, the midwife model is more familiar to them.

Alton said that a midwife is seen as more of a “comadre” or godmother-like figure. Because the midwife teaches the monthly courses, they build relationships and trust with the expecting mothers and are available for support between appointments.

Eisner does not charge uninsured patients for the midwife-run CenteringPregnancy® classes, which allows women of all income levels to access this method of pregnancy care. Additionally, the classes are taught in both English and Spanish to make them more accessible to all of the patients they serve. In 2014, nearly 1,250 women took part in the CenteringPregnancy® program.

Since 2008, Direct Relief has delivered more than $825,000 worth (wholesale) of medicines and medical supplies to Eisner, some of which have served as incentives for women participating in this important pregnancy program. Direct Relief is honored to support Eisner’s mission to provide a medical home for underserved communities in Los Angeles.

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