For low-income pregnant women in the Brazos Valley, The Prenatal Clinic has a message: You are welcome here.
"We want you to feel that this is a safe place for you," said Executive Director Lynn Clary Yeager. "This is a place that wants you to come. We want our patients to be here, and we do everything we can to accommodate their needs."
The Prenatal Clinic opened in December 1985, and more than 20,750 women have sought medical care there through the years. The clinic provides prenatal and perinatal health care at no cost to mothers and their babies. Yeager said about 525 women were patients in 2017.
Women and babies who qualify to receive care must be low-income and typically have Medicaid, CHIP or no insurance. At the clinic, there is no judgment, Yeager said, but a concern that women get the prenatal care they need in order to reduce the number of low birth-weight infants and the rate of newborn mortality.
Since The Prenatal Clinic opened, the number of Brazos County women who give birth with no prenatal care has been reduced by 76 percent, according to the clinic.
"This is a clinic that cares," Yeager said. "We recognize that sometimes there are other challenges that families have to deal with: stress, being hungry or not having a place to raise your family, and that impacts a person's health, and we want that woman to be as healthy as they can. We have great relationships with other organizations in this community, so that should our patients need other types of assistance that we have the ability to refer them and to get them help."
Yeager said the clinic started as "a grassroots effort." While at a women's circle group at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in the early 1980s, two women, Anne Hazen and Gardner Osborn, heard a presentation about the number of women who never saw a doctor during their pregnancies. Finding that unacceptable, they set in motion a way for low-income women to have access to medical care.
"It was community members who saw a need, took a risk, stepped off the curb and made a difference," Yeager said. "With the help of the county and other community members, this clinic opened in December 1985."
In June 2016, the clinic entered into a partnership with Texas A&M University's Health Science Center, which changed the provider status to physician providers instead of advanced nurse practice. The physicians are faculty members at the Texas A&M Family Medicine Residency.
"Our staff works very hard to make sure this place isn't looked at as just a nonprofit, but that this is a very viable option for medical care," Yeager said. "This is not substandard care; that's so far from the truth. We have excellent care because our doctors are so prepared -- being on the staff of the medical school, they are always on top of things."
The clinic is located next to the Brazos Transit bus terminal, in a space that is shared with the Family Health Clinic, W.I.C., the Brazos Family Dental Clinic and other community service agencies. The clinic depends on donations and sponsorships. It has an annual fundraiser, the "You're the Tops" luncheon, that recognizes women that make a difference in the Brazos Valley. The 2019 fundraiser will be April 27, and will be the 25th year of the event. Tickets are $50, and more information will be available on the clinic's website.
Donations are welcome at any time of the year. Volunteering at the clinic is another option for people who want to help. There are several ways to volunteer, including doing drives for the Baby Closet -- a gift center for new mothers at the clinic -- so they can bring home baby items after delivery.
"We want people to know that although health care has changed throughout the 33 years, the mission of the clinic has never changed: making sure babies are born healthy and that women have access to medical care," Yeager said. "That our patients are treated with dignity and are respected. It doesn't matter if they have money or not -- that doesn't come into play as far as the care that they receive."
For more information, visit www.bcsprenatal.org/.