The Maternal Wellness Group found its beginnings in November of 2004, as the Maternal Wellness Center. The brainchild of the co-founders, the Maternal Wellness Center was designed to support, educate, and empower women and families through their transition to parenthood. By augmenting traditional perinatal health care with holistic services, which take into account a woman’s emotional needs as well as her physical needs, MWC could provide a deeper level of care to prevent negative birth experiences, improve parenting skills, and lead children and families to lifelong wellness. Initially focused on treating and preventing pre-natal and post-partum anxiety and depression, the Center was expanded in 2006, when it began operating as a non-profit in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia. The MWC offered many programs and services, but the Healthy Moms Initiative was the most critical. Through the Healthy Moms Initiative we offered comprehensive education and support services for free or at a reduced cost, both on-site and off-site, to pregnant adolescents and pregnant women in financial need. After serving over 2000 women, in April of 2010, having been hard-hit by the recession, the Maternal Wellness Center closed its doors. Today original founder, Kathleen Furin is continuing to champion the cause of healthy, positive experiences for women and families in the transition to parenthood. Kathleen, along with her colleagues in the Maternal Wellness Group, continues to provide holistic perinatal support to address Philadelphia’s skyrocketing C-section rates, low breastfeeding rates, and high rates of pre- and post-partum anxiety and depression.
The Maternal Wellness Center has worked particularly hard to reach populations that traditionally have had more difficulty accessing holistic, comprehensive peri-natal services. In 2006 the Sister Study Circle and Sister Study Circle Scholarship Fund were created. The Sister Study Circle was a monthly support group for women of color who were interested in pursuing careers in midwifery or as doulas and childbirth educators. Through funding from the Foundation for the Advancement of Midwifery, the MWC was able to provide scholarships for women from the Circle to pursue their career goals in these fields. In addition to assisting women with the scholarships, the MWC was able to sponsor a doula training facilitated by the International Center for Traditional Childbearing, an organization with a particular focus on the needs and strengths of African-American women.
The MWC also developed and produced a breastfeeding DVD featuring African-American women. In spite of the numerous health benefits for both mothers and babies, rates of breastfeeding in African-American women continue to be much lower than in other populations. Dedra Sally and Joslyn Ladson worked with women in the Philadelphia area to create this DVD, which features women discussing their own experiences as breastfeeding mothers, as well as information on positioning and latch. The DVD has been a very successful tool, especially with younger mothers who may not have any personal experience with breastfeeding.