Category Archives: Pregnant Women & Parents

Can Healthy Start help you?

Tara Tomlinson PhotographyCongratulations on your pregnancy or new baby!

Healthy Start is here to provide professional, confidential services to help you and your baby, at no cost to you.

At your first prenatal visit, you will be given a Healthy Start screening form. Even if you are not referred to Healthy Start by your doctor, midwife, or birthing center, you and your baby may still be eligible for free classes and services.

If you live in Sarasota County and are pregnant or have a baby under 3 years old, you may be eligible for Healthy Start.

Some of the services available are:

  • Childbirth Education
  • Breastfeeding Education and Support
  • Parenting Education
  • Infant & Child CPR
  • Support for Quitting Smoking
  • Counseling / Therapy
  • Prenatal and Postpartum Yoga
  • Developmental Screenings
  • Referrals to Community Resources
  • And more!

Healthy-Start-Program-LogoCall us today to learn more!

  • Healthy Start Program: (941) 861-2905
  • Healthy Start Coalition: (941) 373-7070
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Eating Healthy During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, you can eat the same things that you normally eat when you were not pregnant. But especially in the first few months of your pregnancy, your baby can be hurt by poisons (toxins) or germs (bacteria).

For this reason, you need to be aware of these food dangers and learn how to choose and prepare your food safely.

What Foods Might Be Harmful to My Baby During Pregnancy?

The foods of most concern are fish, meat, milk, and cheese. Because these are important parts of most diets, you will want to learn to choose the right fish, meat, milk, or cheese.

What’s the Problem With Fish?

Many fish – especially fish that are large, eat other fish, and live a long time – have mercury in them. Mercury can cause problems with the development of your baby’s brain and nerves. Fish may also have dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). These toxins may cause problems with the development of your baby’s brain and may cause cancer.

So Should I Just Stop Eating Fish?

No. Fish is a wonderful food. It has lots of good protein and other nutrients. You can continue to eat fish, but you may wish to cut down on the amount of fish you eat and change the kind of fish you eat.

What Meat is Dangerous?

In the United States most of our meat is safe to eat. However, meat that has not been kept cold or that has not been prepared properly may have germs or parasites that could harm you or your baby. Raw meat may contain toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is a germ that can damage your growing baby’s eyes, brain, and hearing.

What Do I Need to Know About Milk And Cheese?

Some cheese may contain germs (bacteria) called listeria. These germs can cause a disease called listeriosis, which may cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or serious health problems for your baby. To avoid listeriosis, you may want to avoid soft cheeses like Mexican-style queso blanco fresco, feta, or Brie.

How Do I Prepare Food Safely?

  • Wash your hands and cooking surfaces often.
  • Keep raw meat away from raw fruit and vegetables and cooked meat.
  • Cook your food until it is steaming hot. Keep uneaten food cold or frozen.


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Do you Text4Baby?

Text “Baby” to 511411!

If you’re pregnant or a new mom, there is new free service called text4baby that can help keep you and your baby healthy.

Text4baby will send 3 text messages each week to your cell phone with expert health tips to help you through your pregnancy and your baby’s first year.  It’s free to sign up and the messages are free.

How do I sign up?

Sign up for the service by texting BABY to 511411 (or BEBE in Spanish) to receive free SMS text messages each week, timed to your due date or baby’s date of birth.

What topics do the messages cover?

  • birth defects prevention
  • breastfeeding
  • car seat safety
  • developmental milestones
  • drugs and alcohol
  • emotional well being
  • exercise and fitness
  • immunizations
  • labor and delivery
  • mental health
  • nutrition
  • safe sleep
  • stop smoking, and more!

How long do I have to subscribe?

Get the messages throughout your pregnancy and up to the baby’s first year of life. You can stop receiving text messages anytime by simply texting

STOP to 511411.

Am I charged for the text messages?

All messages you receive from text4baby are completely free!


Learn more about Text4Baby

You can also sign up and find more at

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Quit-Smoking Support

Before a child enters your world,

remove tobacco from your life.

Pregnancy is a wonderful time of your life. It’s the first chance you have to influence the life and health of the child you are about to bring into the world.

Unfortunately, using tobacco can cause serious problems for your unborn baby. With every puff of a cigarette, a pregnant woman exposed her baby to over 2,000 harmful chemicals.

Women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to have:

  • An ectopic pregnancy
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Placental abruption (placenta peels away, partially or almost completely, from the uterine wall before delivery)
  • Placenta previa (a low-lying placenta that covers part or all of the opening of the uterus
  • A stillbirth

Babies born to women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to be born:

  • With birth defects such as cleft lip or palate
  • Prematurely
  • At low birthweight
  • Underweight for the number of weeks of pregnancy

Babies born prematurely and at low birthweight are at risk of other serious health problems, including lifelong disabilities (such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation and learning problems), and in some cases, death.

Healthy Start is here to help you quit.

You have the power to change your habit, and give your child the gift of good health. Healthy Start can connect you with free services to help you quit smoking!

  • Hypnosis – Hypnosis helps you to gain the strength to stop smoking and stay that way. It teaches you o focus and strengthen your mind, ad also helps you to relax deeply and reduce stress.
  • Counseling – Reduce your stress through private sessions with a licensed mental health counselor. Healthy Start can refer you o a counselor who will listen to you and support you in becoming and staying smoke-free.
  • Florida QuitLine – The Florida QuitLine can help provide free counseling and nicotine replacement aids like patches, lozenges, an gum. Call 1-877-U-CAN-NOW or visit

We know it’s hard to quit smoking – Let us help you make it easier.

Call 941-861-2905 to contact the Healthy Start Program today!


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Resources for Pregnant Women

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Special Report: C-Sections




  • A cesarean section is the birth of a baby by surgery.
  • You may need a c-section if you or baby’s health is at risk.
  • Recovery from a c-section is longer than a vaginal birth.

C-section: Medical reasons

Cesarean birth is the birth of a baby by surgery. The doctor makes an incision (cut) in the belly and uterus (womb) and then removes the baby. The surgery is called a cesarean section or c-section. The natural way for a baby to be born is through the mother’s vagina (birth canal). But sometimes vaginal birth isn’t possible. If you or your baby have certain problems before or during labor, c-section may be safer than vaginal birth.

You and your health care provider may plan your cesarean in advance. Or you may need an emergency (unplanned) c-section because of a complication that arises for you or your baby during pregnancy or labor.

Why might I have a c-section?
Your health care provider may suggest that you have a c-section for one or more of these reasons:

  • You’ve already had a c-section in another pregnancy or other surgeries on your uterus.
  • Your baby is too big to pass safely through the vagina.
  • The baby’s buttocks or feet enter the birth canal first, instead of the head. This is called a breech position.
  • The baby’s shoulder enters the birth canal first, instead of the head. This is called a transverse position.
  • There are problems with the placenta. This is the organ that nourishes your baby in the womb. Placental problems can cause dangerous bleeding during vaginal birth.
  • Labor is too slow or stops.
  • The baby’s umbilical cord slips into the vagina, where it could be squeezed or flattened during vaginal delivery. This is called umbilical cord prolapse.
  • You have an infection like HIV or genital herpes.
  • You’re having twins, triplets or more.
  • The baby has problems during labor that show it is under stress, such as a slow heart rate. This is sometimes called “fetal distress.”
  • You have a serious medical condition that requires intensive or emergency treatment (such as diabetes or high blood pressure).
  • The baby has a certain type of birth defect.

A woman who has a c-section usually takes longer to recover than a woman who has had a vaginal birth. Women can expect to stay 3 to 4 days in the hospital after a c-section. Full recovery usually takes 4 to 6 weeks. Usually, the hospital stay for vaginal birth is 2 days, with full recovery taking less time than a cesarean. C-section may be more expensive than a vaginal birth.

What about the risks?
When c-sections are done, most women and babies do well. But c-section is a major operation with risks from the surgery itself and from anesthesia.

The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that 1 in 3 babies in the United States are delivered by c-section. Over the past few years, the rate of cesarean birth has increased rapidly. Some health care providers believe that many c-sections are medically unnecessary. When a woman has a cesarean, the benefits of the procedure should outweigh the risks.

The risk of late preterm birth
C-sections may contribute to the growing number of babies who are born “late preterm,” between 34 and 36 weeks gestation. While babies born at this time are usually considered healthy, they are more likely to have medical problems than babies born a few weeks later at full term.

A baby’s lungs and brain mature late in pregnancy. Compared to a full-term baby, an infant born between 34 and 36 weeks gestation is more likely to have problems with:

  • Breathing
  • Feeding
  • Maintaining his or her temperature
  • JaundiceÂ

It can be hard to pinpoint the date your baby was conceived. Being off by just a week or two can result in a premature birth. This may make a difference in your baby’s health. Keep this in mind when scheduling a c-section.

Other risks for the baby

  • Anesthesia: Some babies are affected by the drugs given to the mother for anesthesia during surgery. These medications make the woman numb so she can’t feel pain. But they may cause the baby to be inactive or sluggish.
  • Breathing problems: Even if they are full-term, babies born by c-section are more likely to have breathing problems than are babies who are delivered vaginally.

Women who have c-sections are less likely to breastfeed than women who have vaginal deliveries. This may be because they are uncomfortable from the surgery or have less time with the baby in the hospital. If you are planning to have a cesarean section and want to breastfeed, talk to your provider about what can be done to help you and your baby start breastfeeding as soon as you can.

Risks for the mother
A few women have one or more of these complications after a c-section:

  • Increased bleeding, which may require a blood transfusion
  • Infection in the incision, in the uterus, or in other nearby organs
  • Reactions to medications, including the drugs used for anesthesia
  • Injuries to the bladder or bowel
  • Blood clots in the legs, pelvic organs or lungs

A very small number of women who have c-sections die. Death is rare, but it is more likely with cesarean than with vaginal delivery.

If a woman who has had a cesarean section becomes pregnant again, she is at increased risk of:

  • Placenta previa: The placenta implants very low in the uterus. It covers all or part of the internal opening of the cervix (the birth canal).
  • Placenta accreta: The placenta implants too deeply and too firmly into the uterine wall.

Both of these conditions can lead to severe bleeding during labor and delivery, endangering mother and baby. The risk increases with the number of pregnancies.

Making decisions
Every pregnancy is different. If you are considering a planned c-section for medical reasons or are interested in asking that your baby be delivered by c-section, talk with the health care provider who will deliver your baby. Carefully consider the risks and benefits for your baby and yourself. These questions may be useful when you speak to your provider.

If your provider recommends delivery before 39 weeks:

  • Is there a problem with my health or the health of my baby that may make me need to have my baby early?
  • Can I wait to have my baby closer to 40 weeks?

About c-section:

  • Why do I need to have a c-section?
  • What problems can a c-section cause for me and my baby?
  • Will I need to have a c-section in future pregnancies?

July 2008

© 2010 March of Dimes Foundation. The March of Dimes is a non-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).

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Breastfeeding gives your baby the most healthy start in life.  Breastfeeding also offers a very special time for you and your baby, and gives your baby a gift of health, love and security.

Breastmilk is the perfect food for a baby –  Not only is it completely free and always available, it has all of the right ingredients, in just the right amounts. Breastfed babies are sick less often, and suffer from less earaches, allergies, and diarrhea. Breastmilk has even been proven to make the baby’s brain grow!

Breastfeeding is great for mom, too – It burns 500 calories a day! It’s a great way to get back in shape after pregnancy, and also helps prevent your baby from developing childhood obesity.

Did You Know?

Florida 1993 breastfeeding laws clarify that women have a right to breastfeed any place they have a right to be, public or private, even if they don’t do it discretely. (Florida Stature 800.03)



Do you have questions about Breastfeeding?

Sometimes, moms need help learning to breastfeed or need support.  Early help can turn a challenge into a joy!

Don’t delay calling for help if:

  • Breasts or nipples are sore
  • Nipples are cracked
  • Baby is not latching
  • Milk supply seems low
  • Baby is fussy
  • You think your baby is not getting enough milk
  • You feel like giving up

Pick up the phone and call  – It is worth it to keep breastfeeding your baby as long as you can!

Sarasota Memorial Hospital

Breastfeeding Warm Line:(941) 917-7413
Breastfeeding Classes: (941) 917-1700

La Leche League

Julia Griffith: (941) 918-1767, Christine Holland: (941) 374-3870, Debbie Eldridge: (941) 922-2449, Laura Kati Serbin:  (941) 343-2620, Jessica Adkins: (941) 807-6040, Tanya Taylor: (941) 234-9050 Tiffany Dawson (941) 626-0653 (North Port), Sarah Emprimo-Schwartz (941) 587-9402 (Englewood/North Port) Monthly meetings are held in Sarasota, North Port, and Bradenton.  Call for more information.

Healthy Start Program

Free Services for Breastfeeding Problems: (941) 861-2905

Sarasota County Health Department

WIC and Nutrition Breastfeeding Coordinators:  Aubrey Will (Sarasota) – (941) 861-2960
VENICE: Susan Kling & June Vargas –  (941) 861-3336

Toll-Free Phone Help

Office of Women’s Health BF Help Line
(M-F 9 am-6 pm EST) 1-800-994-9662

African-American Breastfeeding Alliance

(M-F 9 am-5 pm EST) 1-877-532-8535


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We know that you want to have a safe pregnancy and as healthy a baby as possible! Healthy Start is here to help you if you need us.

You will be given a questionnaire at your first prenatal care visit. You will be given another questionnaire for your baby after birth. These questionnaires will help your health care provider know if you may need additional services to help keep you and the baby healthy. Please answer the questions – they are confidential, and your answers will only be seen by those taking care of you.

DURING PREGNANCY – Sometimes, certain problems or issues can affect your health or the baby’s health. Your prenatal care provider will look at your answers to these questions and talk to you about your need for Healthy Start services:
1. Did you complete high school or receive your GED?
2. Are you married?
3. Have you felt depressed or hopeless in the last month?
4. Have you had alcoholic drinks within the last month?
5. Have you smoked cigarettes in the last month?
6. Do you want to be pregnant?
7. Is this your first pregnancy?
8. Have you had a baby before who:
was not born alive?
was born 3 weeks or more before the due date?
weighed less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces at birth?
9. Are you less than 18 years old?
10. Are you very underweight or overweight?
11. Has it been less than 18 months since the birth of your last baby?
12. Did you start prenatal care in the first three months of pregnancy?
13. Do you have an illness requiring ongoing medical care (such as being HIV+, Hepatitis B+, or having hypertension, diabetes, or thyroid or cardiac diseases)?
14. Are you homeless?

AFTER YOUR BABY’S BIRTH – Sometimes, certain problems or issues can affect the baby’s health in the first year of life. Your prenatal care provider will look at your answers to these questions and talk to you about your need for Healthy Start services:

1. Are you less than 18 years old?
2. Are you over 18 but have not completed 12th grade?
3. Are you of a race other than white or are of multiple races?
4. Are you married?
5. Did you have one or less prenatal care visits?
6. Did your baby weigh less than 4 pounds 7 ounces at birth?
7. Did you use tobacco or alcohol during pregnancy?
8. Does your baby have an abnormal medical condition?
9. Do you need help to breastfeed?
10. Are you homeless?

If you are referred to Healthy Start, one of our Care Coordinators will either call or send a letter to you about our services. Please talk to her. She can help make sure you and the baby are getting the information and services you need! Healthy Start is not a government program and is not part of DCF. We just want you and the baby to be healthy and safe.

Call Healthy Start at 861-2905 if you have any questions.


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Are you pregnant?

Just found out you’re pregnant? Learn what you can do now to have a healthy baby:

  • iStock_000007096555XSmallCall a prenatal care provider now to schedule your first prenatal care appointment.
  • If you need help paying for prenatal care, apply for Pregnancy Medicaid as soon as possible.
  • The first three months your baby is growing are very important. Make sure to take prenatal vitamins, including 400 mcg of folic acid daily. It is available at any drug store. (It is best to start taking 400 mcg of folic acid six months prior to pregnancy.)
  • If you smoke, now is the time to quit!  If you need help quitting, call the Healthy Start Program at (941) 861-2905, or call the Florida Quit-Line at 1-877-822-6669.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages. There is no  “safe” amount of alcohol during pregnancy.
  • If you are taking prescription drugs, contact your doctor immediately to make sure they are safe for your baby.
  • Visit our Pregnancy Resource Center at 1750 17th Street, Building A, in Sarasota from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday, for information to help give your baby the best chance for a healthy start in life.
If You Need Help With: Call:
Applying for a Sarasota County Health Department Clinic Card • Eligibility Staff, SCHD, (941) 861-2900
Pregnancy Medicaid
• MomCare, (941) 373-7070, x305
Becoming more healthy during pregnancy • Your Prenatal Care Provider
• Pregnancy Resource Center (1750 17th Street, Building A, Sarasota, Monday – Friday 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM)
• Healthy Start Program, (941) 861-2905
Free pregnancy test •  Sarasota County Health Department, Birthways Family Birth Center, Sarasota Pregnancy Center

Prenatal Care Providers in Sarasota County

Area code for all numbers is 941


At Sarasota Memorial Hospital (Sarasota County):

Bee Ridge Obstetrics & Gynecology, 3920 Bee RidgeRd., Bldg. B, Suite. B, Sarasota,34233, 921-5302**
Women’s Care Specialists, 1921 Waldemere Street, Suite 802, Sarasota, 34239, 917-7888***
OB & GYN Specialists, Inc., 1921 Waldemere Street, Suite 307, Sarasota, 34239, 917-8561**
Department of Health Sarasota County, 2200 Ringling Boulevard, Sarasota, 34237, 861-2878*
South County Family Health Center, 6950 Outreach Way, North Port, 34287, 861-3820*
Associates in Gynecology and Obstetrics, 2439 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota, 34239, 955-8076**
Gulf Coast Obstetrics & Gynecology, 1950 Arlington St., Suite 203, Sarasota, 34239, 379-6331**
University Park Obstetrics & Gynecology, University Health Park Bldg 1, 2401 University Pkwy, Unit 201, Sarasota, 34243, 359-8300

At Bay Front Health Hospital (Charlotte County):

Comprehensive Women’s Clinic, 15061 Tamiami Trail, North Port, 34287, 423-5035**



Birthways Family Birth Center, 4222 McIntosh Lane, Sarasota. 34232, 366-BABY*
Cathy Matthews Home Birth Services, 4944 Midnight Lane, Sarasota, 34235, 351-2102*
Rosemary Birthing Home, 800 Central Avenue, Sarasota, 34236, 330-9966*
LifeSong Midwifery, 5857 Babian Rd., North Port, 34291, 441-6410*


All providers accept private insurance or cash. See stars for those who accept Medicaid.
*Accepts temporary and full Medicaid
** Accepts full Medicaid
*** Does not accept Medicaid

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Pregnancy Resource Center

Are you pregnant?

  • Do you have questions about how to have a safe and healthy pregnancy?
  • Would you like to talk to someone about the questions you have?
  • Do you know about all of the free local resources available to help you?
  • Do you need help with signing up for Pregnancy Medicaid Insurance?


Visit the Pregnancy Resource Center!

Open Weekdays, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Located the Glasser-Schoenbaum Human Services Center
Healthy Start Coalition Office
1750 17th Street, Building A
Sarasota, FL 34234

Call (941) 373-7070 for more information!

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