In response to the high infant mortality rates in Youngstown and Mahoning County, a prenatal care program is expanding to help expectant mothers.
 
It's a program that has already seen success at Mercy Health's Belmont Avenue location, and now this new site on West Chalmers will help patients close to where they live.
 
A ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the expansion of Mercy Health's Centering Pregnancy Program.
 
Officials here crediting a collaborative effort.
 
"In 2014, the health commissioners for Mahoning County and Youngstown city were called to the Ohio Department of Health and were told we had to do something about the inordinate horrific infant mortality rates that Mahoning County and Youngstown were experiencing," explained Patricia Sweeney, Mahoning County Health Commissioner.
 
So the health commissioners formed The MY Baby's 1st Infant Mortality Coalition and, together with Mercy Health and Meridian HealthCare, opened this site on West Chalmers in Youngstown.
 
"They started one program over at the women's center on the north side. But then realized that this portion of the community, because we had done hot spot analysis where we were able to look at the mortality and low birth weight rates, was most definitely underserved and truly in need," Sweeney said.
 
Anna Klejka, Mercy Health Market Director Women and Children Service Line, described some of the services that are provided. "They get their ultrasound, they get evaluated by a healthcare provider who is our women's health nurse practitioner, our community healthcare workers help them in a group setting where they learn to manage their care, take care of themselves and take better care of their babies, get their blood pressure checked and then have ongoing care with the provider here," she said.
 
An essential service since the coalition identified through data analysis that the health of the mother coming into the pregnancy is causing the infant mortality rates.
 
"If a mother comes into the pregnancy obese or hypertensive or diabetic or even some substance issues— tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, those kinds of things— she has much higher rates of low birth weight and prematurity that lead to infant mortality," Sweeney said.
 
Bobbinette John was part of the first group of moms to go through the first program at Belmont Avenue.
 
"I was nervous about it because centering pregnancy, I wasn't aware of what it was, but it ended up being support, which is something every mom needs when they're pregnant, and this is an abundant amount of support. People I wouldn't have met; otherwise, I'm friends with, and our kids are growing up together. It's amazing," she said.
 
Now she also works at the West Chalmers site to help other mothers.
 
"They tell me it wasn't what they expected it to be. They say that they love centering; they wish it could go on longer. They wish there were more programs like that. Some of them who were previous moms wish they would've known about centering with their other pregnancies, and they always say how helpful it is and how much they value that support. It helps a lot of moms with postpartum depression who have other people to talk to and get through those problems."
 
If you'd like to learn more about centering pregnancy go to mercyhealth.com or stop by the sites at 550 West Chalmers Avenue or the other location at 1044 Belmont Avenue.