Pregnancy and the time following a baby's birth is a period of change for families that can be stressful, but also rewarding. When questions and concerns arise, home health care nurses are specially trained to assist with the unique needs of moms-to-be, new moms and infants are a valuable resource for answers. These maternal/child home health nurses can assess the mother's and baby's health, answer questions and provide education and support.
Mothers experiencing a high-risk pregnancy such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disorders or pre-term labor, can be assessed at home by a maternal/child home health nurse. While addressing the mother and child's health, the nurse can answer questions while providing education and support. The nurse also acts as the eyes and ears of the expectant mother's OB provider between appointments.
Hospitals have everything new mothers and babies need, but many homes do not. The home health nurse assesses the home environment to ensure there's a good, safe location for baby to sleep, to change diapers, bathe and take care of other special needs. They also can help uncover other environmental risks for the baby, such as peeling paint, which may not have been considered a hazard by the new mother.
Second-hand smoke is unhealthy for an unborn baby, infants and children. Maternal/child home health nurses have special training to help mothers stop smoking.
Breastfeeding gives babies a healthy start in life. Studies show that even moms who plan to maintain breastfeeding are most likely to quit during the first couple of days following discharge from the hospital. Without support and encouragement, new mothers can become frustrated with challenges like engorgement or a baby who doesn't seem to be feeding well. Maternal/child nurses have training to assist with lactation issues. They also are equipped to evaluate babies to ensure they are growing and developing.
Traveling to the doctor's office with a new baby, especially one that is not well, can be difficult. If a baby has special medical needs, the maternal/child home health nurse enables mother and baby to stay in the comfort of the home where the nurse can provide education and support with such things as monitors and tube feedings.
The Nurse-Family Partnership is a unique national program that helps low-income, first-time mothers with prenatal care beginning no later than 28 weeks through to the baby's second birthday. Specially trained maternal/child home health nurses help mothers with good prenatal nutrition and lifestyle choices and help them prepare emotionally for the baby's arrival.
In the NFP, maternal/child home health nurses work with moms to ensure that the baby has a safe living environment and meets developmental milestones. She provides both parental and life coaching to support the mom in becoming economically self-sufficient. In our area, the NFP has a track record of improving outcomes for low-income moms and babies.
The range of services maternal/child home health nurses can provide varies based on their training and on the patient's insurance and eligibility for certain programs. Check with your OB/GYN's office or local home health care provider to find out what maternal/child health care options are available for you.
Juliann W. Gombosi is manager of Maternal/Child Services and Nurse-Family Partnership Program for Susquehanna Health Home Care and Hospice.