HALIFAX – New moms in Halifax are raising concerns over changes to how Public Health provides pre- and post-natal care.
Dr. Robert Strang, chief public health officer, said pre-natal classes for mothers are being moved online.
“In some parts of the province, our attendance has declined. But even when we have full classes, we know many people aren’t coming for the whole series of classes, they’re picking and choosing,” he said.
Strang said the changes are not a result of budget cuts but rather responding to the needs of mothers.
“This is about changing the way Public Health does its work in an era of modern technology.”
Michelle LeDrew, the director of Women’s and Newborn Health at the IWK, said online classes allows expectant mothers to better use what they learn.
“With pre-natal classes, they’re very much set,” she said. “You go to six classes for example. You may not need that information for many months later. The online resource will be able to provide timely information they can go back to.”
LeDrew said Public Health made the changes in consultation with the IWK.
But new mom Sara Corkum, 27, said the online classes will be a disservice to mothers.
“They don’t have time to go online and look for this information,” she said.
Corkum said a physical class and classroom provides expectant mothers with camaraderie, which can be crucial.
“To go to a class and ask other women who are around the same stage of pregnancy as me, to build my own support system, you can’t get that online. You can get some support online from women but you don’t get the same level of interaction,” she said.
Fellow mother Kerstin Grzesik agrees, saying the social interaction is beneficial for women.
“When you’re there in person and you have a class, other questions might come up when you’re talking to other moms,” she said.
“Convenience is one thing but it’s also nice to be able to meet new people and create a support system.”
However, Strang said moms will still be able to socialize with other moms through chatrooms in the pre-natal online course.
“Perhaps a group of moms can connect and they can do their own social connection while we’re providing them the health information they need,” he said.
New mom Laura Bellefontaine, 25, said the concept makes sense.
“Technology has come so far. Everything you can do online now. I think it would benefit a lot of people, especially people who don’t drive or who can’t get out as easily,” she said.
Public Health is also changing the post-partum visits done currently by its nurses. The visits will now be a shared responsibility with other organizations, Strang said.
“[We will be ] Working with family practices, family resource centres and other community groups to give the more basic support.”
“It may just mean if they need information on breastfeeding or a single visit to breadfeeding support, that may be done by somebody else instead of Public Health,” he said.
Strang said this will allow Public Health to focus on providing intensive support for families for prolonged periods of time.
Bellefontaine, who said a post-partum visit was critical for helping her learn how to breastfeed, said this change is not as concerning for her.
“I think the most important part is it’s actually available to us. As long as it’s somebody who knows what they’re talking about, with experience and the knowledge of what to do,” she said.
It was a similar story for Corkum, who also benefited from a Public Health nurse teaching her how to breastfeed her daughter, Savannah.
“When I got home, I felt like I had no support. I had to get Public Health to come and help me feed my child. It doesn’t matter to me necessarily who does it as long as it is somebody who is trained to help,” Corkum said.
The change to pre-natal courses takes effect in June, while the rest will be phased in over time, leaving some moms concerned about what else may be on the way.
“I feel like that’s just the start of it. What does it snowball down to? How much support do they take away from mothers?” Corkum said.
“It seems like it’s taking a step backwards as opposed to moving forwards,” Grzesik said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated all changes to pre- and post-natal care in Nova Scotia would take effect in June, but many will only be phased in at an unspecified later date. Only the online course component to pre-natal care will come into effect in June. The story has been updated to reflect that information.