Aside from its clean air, beautiful scenery and earning the title as 'Happiest City in the Nation,' there are a ton of wonderful reasons why San Luis Obispo County is also a great place to have a baby! In this post, I want to take the opportunity to introduce you to the numerous resources SLO County provides for a smooth and happy transition into motherhood. This post in no way represents all of the perinatal and postpartum resources for women in our county but as a part of my doula services, the extended list of these resources is always available to you upon request. So with out further ado, let's get into the fantastic reasons why SLO County is a perfect place to start or expand your family!
First up is a shout out to the amazing birth work community in SLO County. As families continue to migrate to the central coast, so follows the increasing passion of doulas, midwives and baby friendly hospitals. If you, like so many, are interested in hiring a doula for your labor and delivery and/or postpartum period (and hire someone other than myself ;) check out #SLOdoulaconnection to find your perfect match. Doulas represented on the SLO Doula Connection are highly experienced and many certified with reputable certification organizations such as DONA, CAPPA, and Childbirth International. If you reside in the Santa Maria Valley and surrounding area, definitely check out #SMVdoulacollective. Alexandra Klein started this much needed collective when she realized Santa Maria Valley lacked a solid doula connection for interested mothers. Lastly, #CentralCoastChildbirthNetwork (CCCN) offers a wonderful list of doulas among many, many other local resources.
If you have gotten familiar with the role of a doula, then you may have wondered about working with a midwife as well. There are a few different types of midwives and SLO County represents them all. Midwives working in hospitals are CNMs (Certified Nurse-Midwives). These midwives have attended nursing school and have also attended midwifery school. They are both clinically and physiologically minded about childbirth but only deliver babies vaginally. If you are interested in working with a CNM during your pregnancy and labor, SLO County offers care through Creating Harmony (office Dr. Aaron Kromhaut and three CNMs), Dr. Patrick Spalding and four CNMs, or Sarah Kelly, CNM (through First California Physician Partners.) There is also a vibrant list of traditional home birth midwives and birth center midwives in our county as well. These midwives have attended midwifery school (among potential other academics and training) and are licensed to deliver babies outside of a hospital. They are called CMs (Certified Midwives), CPMs (Certified Professional Midwives), or LM's (Licensed Midwives). We currently have ten home birth and birth center midwives working in San Luis Obispo County and more to come! For a list of these wonderful providers, visit my post 'Why Home Birth is Safe.'
If you have chosen to give birth to your baby in a hospital, you may be wondering which hospital is best for you in more ways than its convenience in location. There are three hospitals in San Luis Obispo not including Marian which is technically Santa Barbara County. All three hospitals have acquired recognition for their maternity ward services and care. If you reside in North County SLO, the closest hospital is Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton. This hospital has recently been named to the California Health and Human Services Agency (CHHS) and Cal Hospital Compare Maternity Honor Roll for excellence in maternity care and, in particular, its low rates of cesarean section births (20.4% in 2016). The honor roll is the most recent of several honors for excellence in maternity care for Twin Cities, including two this past winter: Being recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) with a score of 96 out of 100 (nationwide average for similarly-sized hospitals is 79) Being designated as a Blue Distinction Center for Maternity Care for its quality maternity programs. Blue Distinction Centers are nationally-designated health care facilities that show meet specific, rigorous standards and demonstrate quality, overall patient satisfaction and a low percentage of early elective deliveries. (Information taken from https://pasoroblesdailynews.com/twin-cities-named-to-maternity-honor-roll/125106/). The two other hospitals, Sierra Vista Medical Center and French Hospital, are located in San Luis Obispo. Focused on family-centered care, the Family Birthing Center at French Hospital is recognized as a Baby-Friendly Hospital. French Hospital has also recently expanded the Family Birthing Center to include additional private birthing rooms, a new family waiting area, an upgraded nursing station and a new cesarean suite. The birthing rooms are thoughtfully designed with low, lovely lighting options and laboring tubs in two of the rooms. Current cesarean rates are slightly lower than the national average at 26% in (2016). Sierra Vista Hospital maintains the only high risk pregnancy program in San Luis Obispo County and is the only hospital in both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties where a woman can deliver vaginally following a cesarean section (VBAC). Sierra Vista also has the only Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in San Luis Obispo County. The 22-bed Level III unit is the largest and most experienced between Santa Barbara and Salinas. In addition, to enhance the quality and safety of The Birth Center experience, in early April Sierra Vista initiated an OB Laborist program ensuring there will be a board certified obstetrician on the unit 24/7. Because Sierra Vista is the center for high risk pregnancies, their cesarean rate is higher at 32.6% (2016). (Information taken from https://slochamber.org/sierra-vista-regional-medical-center-receives-international-baby-friendly-award/)
From here I'd love to get into the awesome perinatal and postpartum resources available to all women including many geared towards supporting low income families. Central Coast Childbirth Network (CCCN) is a wonderful resource for all pregnant women. Their website offers a member directory that represents every perinatal and postpartum service you can imagine. From lactation support to childbirth education to massage, pelvic floor, acupuncture and yoga to physical and mental health and more, CCCN has it all. They also offer low cost and free local resources for low income families such as baby and toddler classes, carseats, bereavement support, financial help, mental health services and more. This organization is a 501c(3) non-profit run by a board of directors and their President and CEO is Zabrina Cox, Labor and Delivery RN, Certified Labor Doula and Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator. Learn more about CCCN at https://www.centralcoastchildbirthnetwork.com/. Pregnancy and Parenting Support of San Luis Obispo (PPSSLO) is another important resource. The support offered through #PPSSLO is abundant. Their bilingual services range from parenting education classes, carseat installation, support and referrals for postpartum depression, a library of educational materials, infant development assessment and more. They additionally offer baby supplies like clothing, baby equipment, prenatal vitamins, baby formula and more. This organization cares very much about the mental wellness of new mothers and not only offers a hotline for those struggling with postpartum depression (SLO Hotline at 805.783.0607) but also has low cost or free perinatal mental health services provided by licensed therapists in San Luis Obispo County. Find out more at https://ppsslo.org/maternalwellness/. There are additional organizations that cater to low income families such as Women, Infant and Children (WIC) which is a nutrition education program that helps families eat well, be active, and stay healthy. #WIC provides no-cost nutrition education, breastfeeding support, healthy foods and referrals to healthcare and other community services. Also offered through the Public Health Agency of SLO County is Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health (MCAH) which promotes the health and well-being of women of childbearing age, infants, children and adolescents who are at increased risk of adverse health outcomes. #MCAH programs offer a diverse list of resources of maternal and childhood resources. Learn more here. An important resource offered through our county is PMAD SLO (Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder San Luis Obispo) The #PMADProject is a systems-change movement to create a comprehensive Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD) system of care for women and families in San Luis Obispo. The PMAD Project was initiated in October 2016 with a broad spectrum of public-private partners assembled, who recognize both the power of the local community and the promise of a collaborative approach, could build a comprehensive and sustainable PMAD system of care. (Information taken from https://pmadslo.org/about-pmad-slo). Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders occur in more than 1 out of every 10 new mothers. Symptoms are recognized up to 2-3 years postpartum. Up until about six years ago, the broad spectrum of postpartum depression (known now as PMADs) was not recognized by healthcare providers. Since then, SLO County specifically has grown abundantly in perinatal therapy. Visit this link to find a long list of perinatal counselors working in San Luis Obispo.
Resources for childbirth education and lactation support for pregnant and postpartum mothers in our county is growing. I have met some of these educators and counselors personally and am honored to recommend their services. For an introduction into childbirth education in the scope of hospital birth, Tamra Winfield-Pace is an RN Childbirth Educator working for the Family Birthing Center of French Hospital. She offers both a childbirth and natural childbirth class at French hospital. Tamra is a very kind and passionate educator, very thorough and engaging and even follows up with families after they've birthed at French. She also used to be a birth doula. Classes are offered virtually until further notice. More info on the maternity classes offered by this hospital can be found here. I always recommend women birthing at a hospital additionally take a childbirth education class offered by private instructors. Independent educators are typically more naturally minded about childbirth than the coordinated instruction of hospital classes. Their education is usually more hands-on as well with some including breath work and laboring positions. The independent educators I am happy to recommend in our county are Jennifer Kinnear (Bradley-Style Childbirth Educator), Zabrina Cox (Lamaze Certified Childbirth instructor) and Katie Leach, Birthwork for All (ICEA-Trained Childbirth Educator). Jennifer Kinnear is also the Managing Mentor of SLO Doula Connection and Certified Doula (DONA). Zabrina Cox is also an RN, Certified Doula (CAPPA), and the CEO of Central Coast Childbirth Network (CCCN). Katie Leach is also an RN and a trained professional Doula (toLabor). She is currently on maternity leave. This list is, again, only a few of a vast group of independent childbirth educators in SLO County. Please get in touch for a more in depth list!
Like childbirth education, breastfeeding support is at the top of most first time mother's educational needs. In addition to the lactation services offered through each of our three hospitals and the La Leche League International's counsel and support in San Luis Obispo, independent breastfeeding consultants and counselors are an important resource to have as they will make home visits. There is no sweeter place than home after you have your baby and even a simple trip to a lactation office can be a stressful journey with a newborn. Also keep in mind that most hospital breastfeeding support is currently offered only virtually once you are discharged so the hands-on learning aspect of support is missing. My personal references for breastfeeding support are the following: Alexandria Porter from Birth Within Doula Services is a Certified Lactation Counselor and DONA trained Doula in San Luis Obispo and Northern Santa Barbara counties. Lindsey Law from Santa Lucia Birth Center is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Jennifer Stover is a La Leche League Leader as well as a gentle touch bodyworker, birth educator, Certified Birth Healing Specialist and retired doula. LLL Leaders are volunteer breastfeeding counselors who have breastfed their own babies, and are active in providing breastfeeding support in their communities by leading peer support group meetings.
While I could go on and on about the other wonderful and eclectic ways that SLO County is a great place to have a baby -- the scenery, the trails, the playgrounds, the wildlife, the events and festivals, the family friendly coffeeshops and restaurants, and so on-- (maybe for another blog post!), I will wrap it up with some miscellaneous yet necessary resources offered by other professionals serving mothers. Because, when it comes down to having a newborn, the most important types of support should revolve around birth, feeding, rest, nutrition, and mental health. Thanks so much for reading and enjoy your journey into motherhood. I'm sure SLO County will make it an especially supported transition!
Baby-wearing Education: Rylee Ionascu, Scrunchie Mama Doula Services
Baby Boutiques: Eco Bambino, San Luis Obispo & Bijou, Paso Robles
Bereavement Support: Zabrina Cox, LLC
Birth Center: Santa Lucia Birth Center, SLO and Intimate Journey Birth Center, Arroyo Grande
Fitness for Moms: Fit4Mom and Equilibrium Fitness for Women
Massage: Paris Ward, Hula Hands and Madisun Castellano, Vyana
Midwifery for low income families: Erin Ashley, LM (works with MediCal and SenCal insurance)
Nutrition: Clare Edwards, Wildflower Medicine
Parent networking: Parent Participation
Pediatric Care: Dr. Rene Bravo, Bravo Pediatrics
Pelvic Floor Therapy: Dr. Marissa Eisengart
Perinatal Counseling: M.Richert Counseling & Associates (also offers mental health support for mothers through PPSSLO at low to no cost)
Placenta Encapsulation: Brittani Brazil, Mommy Made Encapsulation
Reiki: Erin Ashley, LM
Hi and welcome to my blog! My name is Ashley Murphy. I am a full spectrum doula, a wife, writer, artist and mother of two little ones living in Cambria, CA. I wanted to create this blog to connect with the birth work community as well as families seeking birth support here in San Luis Obispo County. I'm hoping to share valuable and stimulating information on everything from prenatal health and advocacy, to natural birth, history, and tradition, to local resources and interesting finds to my own personal journey into "Matrescense."