Ensuring a Healthy Pregnancy

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., ACCESS Media Relations Specialist
February 9, 2017

Setting your child up for success is important at ACCESS, which is why we offer several maternal child health programs to improve the health of women and families across Chicago. These programs focus on providing education, guidance and support for women and their partners to ensure healthy pregnancies and improved birth outcomes. ​

Westside Healthy Start

ACCESS is proud to play a role in the National Healthy Start Initiative, a program committed to improving birth outcomes and health disparities that exist within underserved communities. 

ACCESS' Westside Healthy Start program (WHS) strives to engage women who are at risk for unhealthy outcomes early in their pregnancy. It aims to reduce the incidence of infant mortality and low-birth weight babies in North Lawndale, Austin, and East and West Garfield Park. By providing ongoing care, education and support throughout their pregnancy and first months of motherhood, WHS also strives to promote:

  • Effective parenting skills and partner engagement

  • Increased access to health care, education and social services

  • Greater understanding of proper prenatal care and the importance of healthy behaviors during pregnancy and parenthood

For the most recent program year, more than 800 high-risk families received services from the WHS program. This included 518 pregnant women and 599 infants and children up to age 2. The infant mortality rate for program participants in 2009 was 10.3, compared to 15.3 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in the overall WHS target area.

CenteringPregnancy®

Through the adoption of the national CenteringPregnancy® program, trained ACCESS providers and clinical staff lead prenatal support groups that combine assessment, education and support to discover a sense of camaraderie and shared meaning with other group members. This program offers a safe environment and a supportive network for pregnant women who need prenatal care, guidance and a circle of their peers who uniquely understand what they're going through. ​

Breastfeeding Services

ACCESS' team of maternal child health professionals provide support to new moms who are planning to return to work and/or school by assisting them in securing breast pumps, creating feeding schedules and education on breast milk storage and preparation.​

The percentage of program participants who initiated breastfeeding after delivery increased from 26 percent in 2007 to 67 percent in 2015.

Male Involvement Program

ACCESS' Male Involvement program works with WHS participants to engage their male partners in their health and the health of their children. The program teaches critical parenting and life skills, makes connections to health services and provides job training, among other critical resources to help them succeed as fathers. The program engages the biological father of the children, and in some cases, the mother's significant male partner. 

For the most recent program year, 266 men participated in activities, such as their partner's case management and medical visits and other supportive family activities.

Family Case Management

To ensure a healthy beginning for both mother and child, ACCESS case managers provide education and ongoing support for low-risk pregnant and parenting women throughout the first year of their child's life. 

Title X Family Planning Services

ACCESS provides comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services, including:

  • Birth control consultation and education

  • Counseling

  • Family planning

  • Emergency contraception

  • Breast and cervical cancer screenings 

House Parties

ACCESS' dedicated community outreach team works to reach women in the community by traveling to "house parties," which are in-home, hosted social gatherings that focus on education and conversation on key women's health issues. Women who attend the parties are able to ask any health questions they have within a safe, comfortable environment.

​​For more information about how ACCESS can help you set the building blocks for a healthy pregnancy, talk with your provider or, to schedule a prenatal appointment with ACCESS, call 1.866.267.2353 or click here