Connecting Pregnancy, Osteofit, Mammography

May 21, 2013

In this newsletter:

Connecting Pregnancy - A Unique Prenatal Group 

Building Bones, Balance + Confidence

Revealing Images

Connecting Pregnancy - A Unique Prenatal Group

Where can you combine health checks with education, be encouraged and empowered to take care of yourself?  Where can you learn from other women also experiencing the highs and lows of pregnancy?

At Connecting Pregnancy Prenatal Care.  These groups are facilitated by Birthdocs (also known as Family Practice Maternity Service or FPMS), out of BC Women’s Hospital. Connecting Pregnancy is a unique program in which groups of eight to ten women with similar due dates meet monthly for four months, then bi-monthly until their babies are born. They discuss topics related to pregnancy, birth, parenting, and personal growth.

“Pregnancy is a crazy ride, and it’s so important not to do it all alone,” says Dr. Renee Hall, a Connecting Pregnancy Program Facilitator and a FPMS physician. “Connect with a community of people and make an effort to reach out to other moms and dads. One of many great ways to do that is to get good quality information. Our prenatal groups have shown me how much information is floating around about prenatal health. It’s good to sift through it all in a fun, supportive atmosphere like Connecting Pregnancy.”


What Happens in a Connecting Pregnancy Meeting?

Dr Hall says the nine sessions each have a different focus, such as nutrition in pregnancy or breastfeeding. The way the topics unfold varies, depending on the individual needs of the group.

“We always start with questions, then discuss the topic of the day,” she says. “The group’s questions and conversation steers our direction.”


Fast Facts About Connecting Pregnancy

  • Meetings are co-facilitated by a doctor and a childbirth educator, who remain with that group for the whole pregnancy.
  • Group meetings usually last two hours and are organized in the early evening, to accommodate parents with work commitments.
  • Prenatal education is built into the program; women do not need to seek extra prenatal classes.
  • Partners are welcome to attend the groups and all health visits.
  • Expectant mothers are shown how to check on their health and the baby’s health. At every meeting, there is some private time with the doctor and nurse.
  • Extra visits with the doctor are scheduled in the clinic if needed; each woman’s unique health concerns can be addressed individually.
The doctors’ priority is to ensure that all mothers’ and babies’ medical needs are met. They will have the same level of excellent care as with traditional prenatal appointments.

“Connecting Pregnancy is a whole new way of providing care that helps to create a sense of community,” says Dr Hall. “There is a sentiment of isolation I hear from so many pregnant and parenting couples. It’s great to see people connect and care about each other this way.”

These prenatal groups form support networks that often stay connected after all the babies are born. Reunions are common among groups, long after their pregnancies have completed.


Does the doctor who co-facilitates the group also deliver the babies?

“Not necessarily,” says Dr Hall. “Connecting Pregnancy is run by the Family Practice Maternity Service (FPMS). We work in two groups of eight doctors, so whoever is on call for each group delivers the babies for the day. That may be the doctor who facilitates the group, or it may not.”


Can a woman have an obstetrician outside of this prenatal group?

“All women who attend Connecting Pregnancy are part of the FPMS and start with traditional one-on-one care,” says Dr Hall. “Then all prenatal care is provided within the group, so no other care is needed. However, if issues arise that require help from an obstetrician, we arrange for that individually.”

She adds that if a woman is seeing another care provider to begin with, she would have to transfer to FPMS in order to have access to Connecting Pregnancy. “Or, she can try to get her provider to start up a group themselves - which we would love to encourage and support,” says Dr Hall.


What surprised Dr Hall…

“One group I’ll never forget included a couple who had a very difficult birth,” she says. “I was so worried about how the group would react to the birth story, particularly since many of the women were still pregnant. I also worried how it would be for the couple telling the story, but I underestimated the connection the group had developed.”

She says telling their birth story was an opportunity for the couple to “get it all out.” They had a difficult journey, but also had many good things to share. The group was incredibly supportive of each other; their relationships transcended the doctors and the formal prenatal aspect of the group.

“I hoped people would make connections within the group, but I had no idea how strong some of these connections would be,” says Dr Hall. “One of my groups still meets weekly at a local coffee shop, long after their official sessions have concluded, to share their parenting experiences. Some couples visit and support each other when they’re in the hospital together, and text others in the group. They are absolutely riveted when people return to tell their birth stories, with all the good the bad and the beautiful. They seem to respond like they were on the journey together.”

Dr Hall says some of these couples bond in a way that makes her believe she’s witnessing the beginning of lifelong friendships.

To learn more about these prenatal groups, go to Connecting Pregnancy Care on the website.


Sources and Further Reading

Maternity and Family Care – BC Women’s Hospital

The Best Chance - Government of BC

Written by Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; reviewed by the medical staff and experts at BC Women’s Hospital.


Building Bones, Balance and Confidence

Osteofit, led by Debbie Cheong - pictured right - is helping women and men with osteoporosis live healthier, happier and more independent lives.   


Ten years ago, Ellen Pye was wracked with joint pain and dangerously prone to trips and falls. Diagnosed with osteoporosis of the hip and spine, the 74-year-old struggled daily with pain, disability and diminished quality of life.

It was then she discovered Osteofit, a community-based program run by BC Women’s Hospital. For Pye, the program proved life-changing.


Bones and balance

Osteoporosis – a weakening of bones that can make them vulnerable to fractures – affects one in four women over age 50. To help address this problem BC Women’s Hospital created Osteofit, a program designed to help individuals like Pye have healthier lives when at-risk for or living with osteoporosis.

Osteofit, under the leadership of award-winning Provincial Coordinator Debbie Cheong, educates women on how to live a bone-healthy lifestyle that includes good nutrition, regular exercise and sometimes medication. At the heart of the program are falls prevention exercises that improve balance, coordination and agility, while strengthening bones and improving posture.

All exercises are based on feedback from doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and dietitians.


Accessible exercise

“Debbie makes exercise so fun and easy that I’ve been going twice a week for years,” says Pye, whose enthusiasm is echoed by many other Osteofit participants.

“I’ve lost weight, I don’t fall or trip anymore, and I’m fitter and feeling a lot better about myself,” adds Pye.

In addition to stronger bones and better balance, Osteofit builds something just as important – confidence.

“Many people with osteoporosis are so afraid of a fracture that they avoid crowds,” says Cheong. “Many end up housebound and depressed. After they begin Osteofit, many tell me they experience renewed independence.

“Osteofit is much more than an exercise class. It gives peoplen their lives back.”

Osteofit is available in communities around BC.  For more information on Osteofit, visit


Written by Michelle Hopkins


Revealing Images

The Sadie Diamond Breast Health Imaging Centre


The new Sadie Diamond Breast Health Imaging Centre at BC Women’s Hospital looks very little like a medical clinic. Softly sunlit, the beautifully appointed space exudes precisely the kind of serenity needed by any woman.

The Centre houses three mammography units equipped with the most advanced digital breast imaging technology available, including state-of-the-art tomosynthesis imaging.

Tomosynthesis combines high-resolution pictures taken from multiple angles to create computer-generated 3-D images of breast tissues. This provides radiologists with the highly detailed views of slice sections of breast tissues that are helpful in revealing breast cancer in its earliest and most-treatable phases. Digital imaging will also expand the Centre’s reach by one day, allowing expert radiologists like Dr. Paula Gordon to easily view digital images from elsewhere in BC without requiring patients to come to BC Women’s.

“This technology gives women with very dense breast tissue, or who have had previous cancers, access to a whole new level of diagnostic acumen,” says Dr. Jan Christilaw, president of BC Women’s Hospital and co-chair of the Provincial Breast Health Strategy Committee.

“At BC Women’s our role is not just treating the women who come through our doors,” adds Christilaw, “but also taking provincial leadership in breast screening,”

To book an appointment: 

please call 604-775-0022.  If outside of Greater Vancouver, call (toll free) 1-800-663-9203.  Please have your Care Card number available.


Written by Ann Collette



Gordon + Leslie Diamond Family,Variety - The Children's Charity, TELUS, The Auxiliary to BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre, Canucks for Kids Fund, Sandra Schmirler Foundation, RBC + RBC Foundation, Gareth + Leslie Thomas Family, Fasken Martineau Dumoulin LLP, Mr + Mrs. P.A. Woodward's Foundation.

BC Women's Hospital thanks Odlum Brown for 15 years of continuous support.

The content provided in Women’s Health eNews is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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