By Karysse Trandem, D.O., FACOOG
Over 2,700 Pregnancy Resource Centers (PRCs), also known as Pregnancy Help Centers or simply Pregnancy Centers, dot the landscape across the United States today. The majority of these centers offer clinical medical services for pregnant women in need and seek to support women who are facing an unplanned pregnancy. The leadership of these clinics function like any other women’s healthcare clinic, with a Physician Medical Director overseeing the services provided. What makes these PRC clinics special is that they offer an integrative healthcare model and nearly all services provided are free of charge.
I have the privilege of being the Medical Director for two PRC clinics in southwest Florida. Following employment in private practice for seven years as a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologic surgeon, I chose to transition to this position. My years of experience treating thousands of women facing an unplanned pregnancy afforded me firsthand knowledge of the multidimensional challenges these women face; and that knowledge coupled with the realization of the need for a better model to care for these patients, drew me to this role. With an estimated 45% of pregnancies unplanned, I recognized that these women needed an integrative healthcare approach including support for their physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. PRCs exist to provide an integrative healthcare approach using conventional medicine, and, thus, my local PRCs garnered my attention as an Ob/Gyn physician wanting to better serve women with an unplanned pregnancy.
As a PRC Medical Director, I oversee every medical policy and procedure the medical staff in the clinic practice in caring for and treating each patient, supervise and train the medical staff, implement medical quality assurance practices, ensure our clinic is abiding by state and federal medical clinic regulations, recruit and select medical staff, provide in-clinic care for patients, provide on-call consultation for medical staff and patients, and connect patients to appropriate continuing-care physicians after their visit at PRC.
Women who are supported and helped by PRCs can be offered a medical-grade pregnancy test, professional-grade pelvic ultrasound, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, medical counseling on the risks and alternatives of abortion/parenting/adoption, pap smears, sexual health education, contraceptive counseling, and abortion-pill reversal treatment. The quality of medical care PRCs offer is truly impressive.
Our patients are welcomed regardless of their race, religion, income, or sexual practices, and wholly embraced as women who are capable of making a personal pregnancy decision that is best for their health. They are met with a trained female advocate who offers to walk with them through their journey in our clinic and beyond if desired, making sure that all their needs and concerns are addressed. I am constantly amazed by the strength of my patients facing an unplanned pregnancy and their ability to rise above their fears when surrounded with the support and medical care that they need at the PRC.
Recently I had a patient come to one of the PRC clinics where I work and share her story with me about being a victim of rape and unexpectedly becoming pregnant. She expressed her feelings of fear and shame of sharing her sexual violence story with her dysfunctional family and had not told anyone other than our medical staff that day about her tragic abuse. Terrified about being pregnant as a single, homeless woman and had multiple complex medical conditions that she was told could worsen were she ever to become pregnant, she felt that abortion was her only option. The registered nurse at our clinic obtained her vital signs and recorded her detailed medical history to input into her medical record. A medical-grade pregnancy test was administered and she was confirmed to be pregnant.
To determine the fetal gestational age, viability, and location of the pregnancy, she was offered an ultrasound, which she welcomed, and I met her in the ultrasound room as our certified ultrasonographer prepared for her exam.
I was able to talk her through what to expect during the exam and then show her everything we were seeing in real-time. Her eyes became wide as she saw her baby’s beating heart, and she told us she was now even more worried about her physical health conditions, but she could not imagine aborting her baby. I spent time with her going over each of her diseases carefully and created a health plan for each of her conditions in pregnancy. Her advocate worked with our clinic manager to develop an immediate and long-term housing plan and provided a referral to free rape-victim counseling.
By the end of her appointment, she cried tears of joy and made the decision to carry and parent her baby. She could not stop thanking our staff for empowering her to choose what was best for herself and her baby. I called each of her specialist physicians to ensure she had appropriate specialty care in pregnancy and also reached out directly to the community Ob/Gyn to whom I referred her to continue her pregnancy care.
The above example is just one of the thousands of women facing an unplanned pregnancy that I see and treat at PRCs. PRCs not only help women the moment of their initial clinic visit, but they continue caring for women emotionally, socially, mentally, and spiritually throughout their entire pregnancy and many months and even years after delivery. By the time these women’s babies are born, they are well-educated in parenting, are ensured to have stable living situations, have baby diapers/wipes/clothes/stroller/car seat/safety gear, and can reach out to the PRC for anything at any time in the future. It is the sweetest reward as a physician to see these women thriving throughout their pregnancy and then meet their babies outside of the womb as they enter a home with their birth mother or an adoptive family who has been eagerly anticipating their arrival. PRCs celebrate and aid women, couples, children, and every life associated with women facing an unplanned pregnancy.
Sometimes women who come to our clinics choose to abort their baby, and although PRCs do not perform abortions, our clinics welcome these women wholeheartedly to come back for care services after the procedure. I have yet to learn of an abortion provider who offers counseling and grief help for women who suffer the loss of their child after abortion. There are millions of women who are living with chronic mental health conditions related to their abortion, and PRCs provide support groups and counseling or counseling referrals for women who are dealing with this type of loss.
It is not only my privilege to be Medical Director for two PRCs, but it is my honor to care for women from all walks of life who are facing an unplanned pregnancy. We provide women gold-standard medical services in an integrative way that empower them to make a decision about their pregnancy while remaining true to themselves. The fact that PRCs put women first, addressing all their needs and desires, and offer this support at little or no cost for every patient is absolutely phenomenal. It is my hope that every woman with an unplanned pregnancy will find the compassionate and exceptional care offered by PRCs across our nation.
Dr. Karysse Trandem, D.O., FACOOG is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist and an associate scholar with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.