Coastal Pregnancy Center to expand services with mobile unit

Published 12:14 pm Friday, March 17, 2023

The Coastal Pregnancy Center (CPC), in Washington, is expanding their services with the addition of a 29 ft. motorhome that is now a mobile facility providing women facing a pregnancy decision with information, supplies and limited ultrasounds. 

CPC makes evidence-based pregnancy and parenting education classes and material support available to their clients at no charge. They also offer “non-judgmental and emotionally safe support” to women who are facing an unplanned pregnancy and who want to make an informed decision, according to the nonprofit organization. 

The motorhome will have Julie Joyner, RN and Dr. Jackie Thompson, OBGYN onboard who can complete ultrasounds which can confirm an intrauterine, viable pregnancy and measure gestational age letting a woman making a decision know how far along she is. The motorhome will be stocked with pregnancy tests and a three month supply of prenatal vitamins. 

For pregnant women, the U.S. Office on Women’s Health states prenatal care is important, because it keeps them and their baby healthy. 

“Babies of mothers who do not get prenatal care are three times more likely to have a low birth weight and five times more likely to die than those born to mothers who do get care,” according to The U.S. Office on Women’s Health. “Doctors can spot health problems early when they see mothers regularly. This allows doctors to treat them early. Early treatment can cure many problems and prevent others. Doctors also can talk to pregnant women about things they can do to give their unborn babies a healthy start to life.”

 CPC Executive Director Laura Strabley shared, “Research shows that inadequate prenatal care is associated with poorer health outcomes and higher maternal and child deaths. So, early intervention and referrals for care can help to decrease this risk in the lives of those we serve.”

Prenatal care can become a challenge when a pregnant woman lives in a rural area where medical facilities are a long distance from her home. Not only that, but when a medical facility is farther away, it makes a high pressure situation like going into labor that much more stressful. 

Jerlisha Bond, of Williamston, is four-and-a-half months pregnant with her third child, a boy. She got connected with Coastal Pregnancy Center through the Martin County Health Department.

Bond said for her third child, she had to travel to Edenton, an hour away from her home, to have an ultrasound done. 

 “I definitely hate that I have to travel so far…versus them having the help we need where we are at,” Bond said about the lack of medical facilities around her. 

“To have a baby in Edenton, that would not be too good,” Bond said with a nervous laugh.  

 Bond continued to say about the healthcare industry,  “They need to be a little bit better in bringing help and keeping it in this area, because we have people that may not be able to travel but so far, may not have the money to go see a doctor and things of that nature.” 

She delivered her first baby in Williamston which is a ten minute drive from her home; however, she delivered her second at ECU Health Beaufort which is a 20 minute drive. With her second, she booked a hotel room for a night in Washington so she could be closer to the hospital. 

As any person who has had a baby knows, most babies arrive on their own schedule. Bond went home from the hotel thinking her baby wouldn’t arrive soon. The next morning, she went into labor and had to make the drive back to Washington hoping the driver would not have to pull over so she could deliver her baby on the side of the road. 

“You still have to get from the light to the hospital so it’s like ‘am I going to make it? Am I going to make it,’’ Bond said. 

She continued to say, it is a “bit of a hassle” to get to Washington. The medical facility in Williamston where she had her first was ten minutes from her home.

According to NC Health News, in rural portions of the state there were 13 closures of either a maternity unit within a hospital that remains open or the entire hospital closed.

A maternity ward at Martin General Hospital closed on Oct. 21, 2019, in January this year ECU Health announced the closure of a family medicine clinic in Aurora as well as a Women’s Care facility in Williamston.  According to a press release from ECU Health in January, Aurora staff members would relocate to ECU family medicine clinics in Chocowinity or ECU Health Physicians East clinics. Williamston staff would relocate to either Washington or ECU Health Physicians clinic. 

The former Vidant Pungo Hospital closed on July 1, 2014; however, a multi-specialty clinic opened in Belhaven in June of 2016 that offers prenatal care. 

“With the recent news of ECU Health closing clinics in Williamston and Aurora, we believe that God has gone before an increased resource need in the areas we plan to serve,” Strabley said. 

The motorhome will expand CPC’s care first to Martin County. The nonprofit is looking to develop agency partnerships and find locations to set up the motorhome. Their goal is to have the motorhome out once a week.  

According to Strabley, the motorhome is valued at $80,000 and thanks to donations, it has been paid off. 

The next project CPC will work on is expanding their current office space on John Small Avenue into the former CVS Pharmacy next to them. This will give CPC more office space and they can build a boutique for the families they serve. Also, they received grant funding for new signage which will accompany their expansion.