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WATCH: One stop shop for moms to be

KELOWNA — Pregnancy was a mystery to 30-year-old Mari Hedges eight months ago.

“The only thing that I really knew is that you should go and book an appointment with your family doctor,” says Hedges, a Lake Country resident for the last year.

But Canada has only been her home for the last eight years, making health services a bit unclear for the Finnish woman.

That’s when her web research discovered Healthy From The Start, a new service for pregnant women offered by the Interior Health Authority, which covers the Thompson/Okanagan, Kootenays and Columbia regions in BC.

Hedges was one of 700 women who used the pilot project, which started in August 2012, to find answers to questions.

“That was like winning a lottery because I ended up getting an answer for every single question and concern and fear that I’ve had,” she says.

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Women can call or email a public health nurse who will give them a personal call back.

“We do a health screening questionnaire,” says Carmen Wentland, one of the nurses who answer calls.

“We talk about different resources that may be appropriate for them and if they’re interested, provide that information to them.”

Hedges was looking to connect with other pregnant women, something that is more difficult living in a rural part of the Central Okanagan.

“I had concerns about how to get in touch with the community; how to find new moms, other moms, somebody to talk to and maybe share your feelings of just being pregnant,” says Hedges.

The new-mom-to-be also found information about breast feeding and prenatal classes, as well as information to help answer her husband’s questions.

“He has as many questions as I do and I was able to talk about his concerns with Carmen so it helped him tons,” she says.

“It helped him to understand I’m not just crazy; I’m a pregnant lady. It’s normal.”

Previous to the service offered by IHA, doctors would refer only at risk patients to the public health office. The new Healthy From the Start program offers answers for mothers-to-be in any circumstance.

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“Diabetes, their blood pressure, if they have different things going on in their health and we can provide more information that’s tailored to that health situation or resources that might be available for them,” says Wentland.

“We want to talk to all pregnant women and the sooner the better.”

Wentland says connecting early with mothers will have a positive impact on the health of women during pregnancy and eventually positively impact their newborn child.

“We want to have happy moms and healthy babies,” says Wentland.

Hedges says the service was life changing.

“It was because I was in a dark place in my head because I did have a lot of fears and a lot of questions,” she says.

Now, she’s in a better place.

“I have never felt as happy” she says.

Healthy From the Start is now available in the entire Interior Health region toll-free 1-855-868-7710 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. PST or online at www.interiorhealth.ca/HealthyFromTheStart

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