July 05, 2022
Pregnancy is a journey filled with many exciting moments. It can also be overwhelming and stressful at times. As manager of the case management department at Independence Blue Cross (independence), I make sure expectant parents are provided with the support and encouragement they need to feel confident during every stage of pregnancy and into the postpartum period.
I have been a registered nurse for more than 30 years, with a primary focus in maternal child health. I now lead the Baby BluePrints®, pediatric, and NICU teams of Registered Nurse Health Coaches at Independence. Our goal is to support members throughout their pregnancies and into the postpartum period as well as to help families through their child’s acute or chronic illness.
My team of specially trained registered nurses helps members with any health-related question or concern, including supporting them throughout pregnancy and into the postpartum period.
New parents have many questions about what is normal during pregnancy; they also have questions about nutrition, how to manage pregnancy-related conditions, infant care, and breastfeeding. If you have a time-sensitive issue, it can be hard to get through to your OB/GYN or pediatrician right away, so having a Registered Nurse Health Coach on call 24/7 is another great resource.
Our Health Coaches offer tailored education to our pregnant members, including what they can expect during each trimester. They provide concrete, fact-based information along with reassurance and guidance. They can also talk with members about the different feelings they may be experiencing and can help them navigate their new role with confidence.
Registered Nurse Health Coaches are available 24/7 for Independence members by calling 1-800-ASK-BLUE (1-800-275-2583 TTY/TDD: 711) and following the prompt for “Health Coach.”
“The transition from pregnancy to postpartum can be overwhelming, so preparation is key. We educate members on body changes, the healing process, feeding issues, potential complications, and when it would be appropriate to seek immediate medical care. Your pregnancy experience is with you for a lifetime, so I keep that in mind with each member. I feel honored that our pregnant members allow me to participate in this journey.”
Susan Bayliss — Registered Nurse Health Coach
Members of an Independence health plan who are looking for more pregnancy support can enroll in Baby BluePrints. Baby BluePrints is a program designed to support expectant parents throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period. Members can call 1-800-598-BABY (2229) to self-enroll in Baby BluePrints.
Some members are referred to the program by their OB/GYN provider or are identified for outreach. In that case, a Baby BluePrints Health Coach will reach out to offer support, provide education, and assess any needs they may have.
Our Health Coaches also help members:
• Understand their benefits. Health Coaches can talk to members about their specific benefits including nutritional counseling, lactation counseling, breast pumps, postpartum home visits, and pelvic floor rehabilitation. For example, did you know Independence covers up to six nutritional counseling visits a year at no cost to the member?*
• Find a provider. If members do not have an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN), Health Coaches can help them find an in-network OB/GYN. Some of our members prefer to use a certified midwife or certified nurse-midwife for their birth experience, and we have many of each in our network. Some midwives deliver in hospitals while others deliver in birthing centers. We can direct our members to the setting that they feel most comfortable with. Health Coaches can also help members find in-network lactation consultants, dietitians, pelvic floor specialists, and mental health support.
• Find other resources. Health Coaches are trained to identify needs and ensure that members have access to basic necessities. Health Coaches can connect members with Independence programs they may qualify for, or help them find community resources. They also screen each member for behavioral/mental health issues — especially postpartum depression — and can connect with the member’s health care provider if further support is needed.
Health Coaches are available to answer any questions that arise during the postpartum period. For example, after delivery, Health Coaches can help members determine when they are ready for physical or sexual activity again. Ultimately, the member’s OB/GYN will determine when the member is ready for physical and sexual activity. This can be different for each person.
Babies who are in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) have special needs and concerns. We have NICU nurses on staff that can help parents with the transition to home, special needs, and the emotional aspect of having a child in the NICU. They are available by phone at 1-833-444-6428 and email at NICUnurses@ibx.com.
“By providing encouragement, information, and education, I help parents navigate the NICU and take their baby home with confidence, knowing they have the support they need. I encourage NICU parents to read reliable resources and link up with former NICU parents through different organizations.”
Ralyn Volpe — Registered Nurse Health Coach and former NICU nurse
After delivery, Independence covers a nurse home visit immediately after discharge. The hospital must arrange the visit with the home care provider, so we encourage our members to either ask their OB/GYN or midwife about this benefit when discussing the birth plan, or ask a postpartum nurse about it after delivery in the hospital.
Independence offers breastfeeding support for new parents, including helping members find in-network certified lactation consultants.
Some lactation consultants offer virtual care when an in-person exam is not needed. Health Coaches can also answer common questions about breastfeeding over the phone and help parents find covered breast pumps through in-network providers such as Yummy Mummy or Milk N Mamas Baby.
“The period following delivery is a very stressful time for new parents. As a Registered Nurse Health Coach, I provide encouragement and clinical expertise that members need. New parents need to be told they are doing better than they think they are. They need concrete, fact-based information. They could often use a reminder to take care of themselves as well. We are privileged that new parents allow us to participate in this monumentally important time in their lives.”
Kimberley Berg — Registered Nurse Health Coach and lactation consultant
Both the OB/GYN and the pediatrician will screen new parents for depression and other mood disorders during and after pregnancy. Health Coaches support this screening by:
• Reassuring members that difficult feelings are common during this time and are nothing to be ashamed of. Help is available, and there are safe ways to treat depression, even during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
• Listening to members without judgment and encouraging members to talk to their own support system.
• Helping members find a behavioral health provider who can diagnose and treat mood disorders.
•Directing members to other mental health resources.
We also remind parents that after delivery, it’s very common to feel overwhelmed or experience some “ baby blues,” which is often due to hormonal changes or lack of sleep. These feelings may last a few days or even up to a week or two. However, if the feelings last longer two weeks or interfere with a member being able to care for their child, we encourage them to talk to their personal doctor or pediatrician.
* Not all employers offer nutrition counseling visits as part of their benefits plans. Please log in at ibx.com to check your benefits booklet or speak to your benefits administrator to determine if this benefit applies to your coverage.
This content was originally published on IBX Insights.
Michele has been a Registered Nurse for over 30 years with her primary focus in maternal child Health. She has experience in labor and delivery, high-risk pregnancy, newborn nursery, NICU/continuing care nursery, and mother/baby care. Michele also worked in home care by providing home visits for the assessment and education of high-risk pregnancy patients, well mom/well baby visits, and NICU babies making their transition from hospital to home. Now in a leadership role at Independence, Michele oversees the Baby BluePrints, Pediatric, and NICU team whose goal is to support a mom throughout her pregnancy and through the transition to motherhood as well as assisting families with the challenges of having a child in the hospital or dealing with a chronic illness. Michele enjoys reading, musical theatre, and spending time with her family.