Expert help when you’re expecting abounds in Walla Walla Valley

Local hospitals and community centers provide resources for people who are having a baby.


WALLA WALLA — The arrival of a baby is usually a joyous occasion. But the birthing process can deliver uncertainty and uneasiness for the new parents-to-be.

Numerous resources are available locally for new and soon-to be parents. The Walla Walla YMCA, Walla Walla General Hospital, SonBridge Community Center and Providence St. Mary Medical Center all offer a variety of classes and support.

Parenting education programs and support are also available through Walla Walla Community College and the Walla Walla Valley Early Learning Coalition, as well as many area churches.

The YMCA offers both pre- and postnatal classes, including the birth process, exercise, yoga and post-pregnancy exercise.

The General Hospital’s programs emphasize early prenatal care and childhood immunizations. It offers classes such as an online course for pregnant women who are on bed rest or have a work schedule that would interfere with in-person classes, said Community Health Education Coordinator Sharryl Toews.

SonBridge Community Center offers a variety of assistance and information, such as parenting seminars and other classes, car care for single moms, baby diaper distribution and more.

Providence St. Mary Medical Center has a state-of-the-art birthing center and offers a wealth of information through classes as well as pre- and postnatal support for parents.

“Often they get much of the education through the physician — their doctor suggests it. The OB doctor has a nurse who does an intake of information, sits with the mom and gets a sense of what she wants and explains much of what’s available.” said Christine Wittlake, R.N., lactation specialist.

Wittlake said parents-to-be often develop fears about the giving birth. Birthing center staff work to overcome anxiousness.

The process gives the couple a chance to work together.

“They are now looking forward to the experience. They have a plan” that reduces stress and fear, she said.

Paige Down, director of women’s services at Providence St. Mary, said a tour of the birthing center is a good first step after a woman finds out she’s pregnant. This helps her and her family familiarize themselves with the physical environment of the birthing rooms.

The mother-to-be’s concerns are constantly addressed.

“Patients may have plans for the birth,” Down said. “Whether it’s medicated or not medicated — we try to respect what the patients wish.”

After consulting with her doctor and nurse, the mother-to-be can get involved in childbirth education classes that address the immediate issues of birthing a baby.

Classes at St. Mary’s are a six-night series, each with a different topic, said Wittlake.

The first covers the normal sequence of labor, understanding the process and getting a tour of the birthing unit. A subsequent class teaches how the parents can work together as a couple to help the mother during labor, with breathing and relaxation skills.

During another session an obstetrician discusses possible medical intervention so parents can understand and be more prepared in case of an emergency.

Down said there is a cost for classes but sometimes a person’s insurance will cover it.

After the baby is born and the mother and child are preparing to leave the hospital, the staff answers any questions that might arise. This includes understanding nursing, getting lactation support and learning the multitasking routines of baby care, handling the baby and breast-feeding. If the babies have challenges there is a special care nursery available.

The hospital staff holds postpartum clinics to check on the baby’s condition and weight, and ascertain how the mother and baby are connecting as a new unit.

“Although we have a baby the same way as women have all through history, we have more tools now to help the mother pick and choose what she wants the experience to be,” Down said.

“It’s an advantage to live in this century,” Wittlake said. “Women do have choices and don’t have to go through what our grandmothers did. We encourage her to take classes here or at the YMCA or at the General Hospital. Get a class, get prepared.”

Karlene Ponti is the U-B specialty publications writer. She can be reached at 509-526-8324 or


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