Preparing for Childbirth in West Michigan: A Pregnancy Guide for Expecting Moms & Dads

pregnancy and childbirth guide west michigan

Having a Baby in West Michigan

So you’re having a baby; congrats! And here’s some more great news: Grand Rapids is one of the best cities to start a family in. But before you welcome baby, here are the important things to know.

West Michigan’s approach to having a baby is welcoming of all choices. 

Hospital births are celebrated alongside home births, midwives are available for both home and hospital births, and OBGYNs lend their expertise in every town around the area. No matter your birthing preference, it is probably already in practice and you’ll have no trouble finding the right professional(s) to help you along the way.

Where on earth to start? Here are some tips for prepping for your next bundle of joy in Grand Rapids.

From name ideas to parenting classes, it all starts here.

  • Healthcare Providers
  • Childbirth Classes
  • Childbirth Centers & Hospitals
  • Breastfeeding
  • Baby Showers
  • Baby Gear
  • Childcare
  • Emotional Support
  • Unplanned Pregnancy & Resource Support

Find your Healthcare Providers

10 Questions to Ask When Choosing an OBGYN

It’s more than just credentials; find a physician that understands your values, is convenient and will collaborate with you.

Surprise, excitement, and overwhelm are just some of the feelings that new expecting mothers will likely experience. But when that pregnancy test shows positive, and when your mind clears, it’s time to learn about pregnancy care and to find an obstetrician. But just how do you do that, especially if you don’t have a trusted friend to ask for a referral? Here are a few pointers to help you make a good selection.

1 • Does the physician accept your insurance? Having a baby comes with a price tag, which is why it’s important to know ahead of time what your insurance covers. Find out if the physician accepts your insurance, and also whether or not they are considered in-network. Out-of-network physicians will likely cost you a bit more. Also important, make sure your physician actually practices at a hospital where you’d like to give birth.

2 • Does the physician practice both obstetrics and gynecology? Some physicians focus on one area or the other, others do both. Most OB/GYNs practice general women’s health, which includes both obstetrical services—like prenatal care and delivery—and gynecological services like routine annual exams and gynecological surgery. If your gynecologist also provides obstetric services—and you’re happy with the physician—you’re all set!

3 • Is the physician’s office location convenient and do the call hours work for you? Most women will have monthly OB/GYN visits until 26 weeks, then biweekly until 36 weeks, and then weekly until delivery. Wow, that’s a lot of visits! That’s why you should make sure your physician is located somewhere convenient to either your home or work. Consider whether you need a physician who answers calls and/or texts throughout the day or one who will call you back after you leave a message at his or her office. Sometimes physicians will do a little bit of both.

4 • What is the physician’s support system like at the office? Some physicians are committed to seeing their patients at every single visit, others work with teams of physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Ask whether or not your physician will be at every appointment, or if some visits will be handled by other experienced staff. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. It’s about what you’re comfortable with.

5 • Does this physician come recommended by someone you trust? For example, by your primary care physician or a family member or friend? You know you’re in good hands if a physician referral comes from a trusted person in your life. Maybe your bestie had a fantastic experience with this physician, or your doctor says this OB/GYN is highly regarded. Referrals give you a feeling of peace and security.

6 • For those who have already delivered a baby, but by Cesarean section, does the hospital where the physician practices offer VBAC? Many hospitals provide the opportunity to try a vaginal delivery following a previous C-section, but not all do. If you have a history of Cesarean birth and want a vaginal delivery this time around, this information is extremely important to know.

7 • What are the options for pain during labor where you will deliver, and how will your wishes be addressed? If you want a natural birth, you’ll want to know what options there are for labor without any medication. Start a dialogue about your ideal birth experience and find out if these expectations can be met. If you would like to work with a midwife or a doula, ask your physician how he/she feels about having them in the room during labor and birth.

8 • How does the physician handle high-risk pregnancies or other health concerns while pregnant? For women with conditions like diabetes, asthma, or high blood pressure, it’s important that your physician has a plan in place for managing any of those while pregnant. If you are in the high-risk category, you need to know how you’ll be monitored, both during your pregnancy and throughout labor.

9 • Do you feel comfortable with this physician? This is more of a personal question, but it’s a critical one. Your new doctor should be easy to talk to, someone who listens to your thoughts and concerns and explains processes in a way that makes sense to you. You want to know that you and your physician can work together toward the best experience possible.

10 • What happens if the physician is not available on delivery day? Because stuff happens. If your physician has a family or patient emergency, and can’t be there for you on delivery day, who will take his or her place? If possible, find out if you can meet any backup physicians to ease your comfort level.

So, there you have it. You are now armed with important factors to consider when choosing the perfect physician to deliver your precious baby. And, we’re about to make it even easier. Here’s a  printable PDF checklist that includes all of these questions to take with you to your physician interviews.

Top Voted OBGYNs in West Michigan

5 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Pediatrician

We all want someone who will see our child as an individual, and not a number. Someone qualified, and who your kids look forward to seeing. But we also want someone who just clicks with our family.

Here are some key questions to consider when determining if a pediatrician is right for you and your child. 

1 • Is the Pediatrician Qualified? Pediatricians should be board certified. These docs have very specific training and education focused on kids’ health. You can verify a physician’s certification online. Most are through the American Board of Pediatrics.

2 • How is the Pediatrician’s Office Run, and is Your Insurance Accepted? Will you see your pediatrician at every office visit, or are you likely to be seen by others in the practice? Decide what your preference is and whether the provider is able to accommodate that.
Does the practice have a separate waiting room for sick children? Also, make sure your insurance is accepted by the office and that you’re clear about how billing is handled.

3 • What is the Pediatrician’s Availability? and Office Hours? If access to urgent care, same-day visits, telemedicine appointments, or evening hours is important to you, make sure your pediatrician’s office has that availability.

4 • Are You and the Pediatrician on the Same Page? What is your pediatrician’s philosophy on breastfeeding, vaccines and antibiotics? Do they match yours? A big key to developing a great relationship with your kid’s pediatrician is to be on the same page when it comes to medical decisions.

5 • Do You Click? Many pediatricians have the credentials and philosophy you seek. But not all will connect with you. Your friend or sister may love their pediatrician, but when you meet them, it’s not the same experience. That’s okay! That’s still probably an amazing provider. It’s just not the provider for your family. Meet with the pediatrician in person to see if you both click. You can schedule a consult appointment, which is a 15-30 minute meet and greet. These typically aren’t billed, and you can assess whether it’s a good fit.

Remember, You Can Always Switch Pediatricians: So vetting multiple pediatricians isn’t always doable. Sometimes you just need to do your best research and book an appointment. If the pediatrician you choose isn’t working out, switch. Nothing is permanent!
I remind myself of this often because I forget that I have a choice and that I can change my mind when it comes to the care of my children. It’s a pretty comforting thought!

Top Voted Pediatricians in West Michigan

Top Voted Midwives & Doulas in West Michigan

Childbirth Classes

Take a childbirth class so that, when you show up at the hospital, you aren’t clueless about what’s about to happen. For example, did you know that (for safety reasons) once you are admitted you can’t eat until your baby is born?

Attending childbirth classes is really an amazing experience. Not only do you get great information, but you also get to ask your health care professional all of your burning questions. And you get to talk over this life-changing journey into parenthood with the other expectant parents in the class.

Today’s birthing classes range from in-person to virtual so that busy schedules and different learning types can be accommodated. The actual birthing process is the same as generations before, but the experience is changing. Just think about the way your grandmother and mother gave birth. (Back when my Grandmas had their children, the spouses weren’t even allowed in the room!)

In addition to the ins and outs of labor and delivery, there are local childbirth classes on Infant and Child CPR + First Aid, Newborn Care, and Breastfeeding. Plus, grandparenting classes and sibling classes can also be found.

UM Health-West Childbirth Classes

UM Health-West offers classes and support for family planning, prenatal care, expectant parent education, car seat safety and more. They’ll also help you select a pediatrician or family physician. They recommend registering early, by the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy.

They even offer Infant and Child CPR + First Aid, Newborn Care, Breastfeeding, Sibling and Grandparenting classes.

Spectrum Health Childbirth Classes

Spectrum Health offers a variety of pregnancy and parenting classes, including Preparing for Childbirth, Breastfeeding, Infant/Child CPR, Safe Home for Baby, Newborn Care class, Siblings class, Dads on Deck, Infant car seat safety, and more.

Trinity Health Childbirth Classes

E-learning and Live WebEx childbirth classes are offered at this time.

Lamaze of West Michigan

Lamaze is an international non-profit organization known for its promotion of natural birthing techniques, especially Lamaze Breathing. Lamaze classes cover what to expect during normal labor, birth, and early postpartum periods as well as comfort measures, positioning, and relaxation skills (like breathing strategies) as well as additional pregnancy-related topics. Locally, small classes provide at least 12 hours of instruction.

Bradley Method

The Bradley Method is a natural childbirth program that emphasizes a medication-free, partner-assisted birth scenario. This 12-week course places the partner in the role of coach and starts in the 5th month of pregnancy. Breathwork, birth plans, nutrition, and delivery expectations are some of the items covered in this course. West Michigan is home to several teachers of The Bradley Method. Series start dates are listed on their individual web pages.

HypnoBirthing

Hypnobirthing is a childbirth technique that uses deep relaxation strategies to help the laboring woman reduce pain, fear and anxiety while giving birth. HypnoBirthing educators guide class participants through (5) weekly 2.5-hour classes, either in-person or virtually.

GR Natural Birth Childbirth Classes

Childbirth Centers & Hospitals

West Michigan has several hospital systems that provide childbirth services. There are also alternative birth options available in the area.

UM Health-West Childbirth Center

5900 Byron Center Ave, Wyoming, MI 49519

All rooms are spacious and private. Postpartum recovery rooms come fully equipped with flat-screen TVs, movies on demand, wireless internet, access to instant electronic education information, plenty of windows, and in-room bathrooms and showers. Each room has a couch that converts to a full-size bed for dad or other family members. The nursery is conveniently located nearby 

Spectrum Health Hospital-Based Midwifery Program • Natural Birthing Suites

Spectrum Health’s midwifery program is hospital-based, and the only one of its kind in West Michigan. They offer private labor and delivery suites for all patients. For those interested in a home-like atmosphere, they have a select number of high-touch, low-intervention birthing suites at Butterworth Hospital Family Birthplace. These are outfitted with a queen bed, sleeper sofa and soft lighting. Suites are available to reserve by your provider on a first-come, first-served basis.

Spectrum Health Family Birthplace

Spectrum Health operates birthing centers in a number of West Michigan cities.
* Locations have a baby-friendly designation. It’s a program that aims to promote breastfeeding in the hospital.
Spectrum Health Butterworth* • 100 Michigan St NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
Spectrum Health United* • 615 S Bower St, Greenville, MI 48838
Spectrum Health Zeeland* • 8333 Felch St, Zeeland, MI 49464
Spectrum Health Pennock Hospital • 1009 W Green St, Hastings, MI 49058

Spectrum Health Family Birthplace Tour

Trinity Health Birth Center

200 Jefferson Ave. SE Level 9, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503

Private birthing rooms are standard at Trinity Health (formerly Mercy Health Saint Mary’s) in Downtown Grand Rapids. Many comfort options are available here, too, including soaking tubs, shower jets, sound machines, massages, dim lighting, and other therapies that offer relaxation. Virtual Tour.

Simply Born

802 Merritt Street SE Grand Rapids, MI

Simply Born helps families plan and customize their birth to fit their individual needs. Out-of-hospital births are their specialty – either aiding in home birth or births at their birthing center. Their team includes a Licensed Midwife (LN), an RN, a lactation counselor, and childbirth educator, a doula, and several birth assistants.

Breastfeeding Classes & Resources

In the beginning, breastfeeding can be very overwhelming. Maybe you could do a football hold at the hospital when the nurse helped position your baby, but can you do it at home by yourself? It’s not so easy for some, and that’s ok. For most women, it takes hard work and patience. 

Finding a breastfeeding support group can be vital to building your confidence. Breastfeeding support groups are a safety net for moms with new babies, especially first-time moms because there is a breastfeeding learning curve.

Baby Beloved

Program locator and financial assistance

Offers lactation consultation (office visits, telehealth appointments, home visits, or phone consultations), breastfeeding and pumping classes, and workshops.

Spectrum Health Breastfeeding Classes & Support Group

Virtual or in-person in Grand Rapids, MI

Led by a certified lactation counselor or consultant, these classes help you learn practical tips ahead of time to prepare for successful breastfeeding.

La Leche League of Grand Rapids

In-person meetings in Grand Rapids, MI

La Leche League Leaders offer mom-to-mom breastfeeding and mothering information and support. We are a community of mothers who want to help pregnant women, new moms, and experienced mothers with any aspect of breastfeeding, from latch-on to weaning. We have time and patience, and we listen really well.

UM Health-West Breastfeeding Support Group

Virtual meetings

Gain confidence in breastfeeding through friendship and encouragement at this support group. This group is led by an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). All moms and babies are welcome, regardless of birth location. NOTE: This group is for postpartum moms but pregnant moms are always welcome to visit to learn about and experience breastfeeding firsthand.

3D/4D Ultrasounds

4D Moments

2751 Alpine Ave NW G, Grand Rapids, MI 49544

Baby Envision 4D Ultrasound of Grand Rapids

2012 28th St SE ste a, Grand Rapids, MI 49508

Photography

Maternity Photo Shoots & Newborn Photography

Program locator and financial assistance

Getting a photo to say just what you want it to is an art. Photographers practice for years perfecting their style, and their craft.

Some naturally love taking photos of babies and newborns.

Choosing someone to chronicle your pregnancy means that this person is going to work with you on some of the most memorable moments of your life. It’s okay to ask questions and look at a photographer’s portfolio – making sure you’re a good fit for each other will help create a pleasant experience for all.

Inkling Photography
Inkling Pictures
Katie Cook Photography
Katie Cook Photography

Baby Showers

Baby registries

Baby Gear

Shopping for baby (and mommy) is fun and there are plenty of options here in Grand Rapids to make sure you’re prepared before baby arrives. From large name brand stores (including Carters and Buy Buy Baby) to small boutiques like Hop Scotch Children’s Store, Grand Rapids has it covered.

Mom 2 Mom Sales & Kid Consignment Stores

Fill the nursery with gently used items at great prices when you shop secondhand. Here’s where and when the next West Michigan Mom 2 Mom Sales are happening, listed. You’ll also find links to mom-to-mom Facebook groups and local consignment shops.

Baby Essentials

chicco stroller travel system

Chicco Bravo Trio Travel System

crib and mattress combo

Crib & Mattress Combo

car seat cover

Car Seat, Nursing, Stroller Cover

Childcare Resources

Greater Grand Rapids Childcare Guide

Daycare Centers around West Michigan

Great Start to Quality

Program locator and financial assistance

Great Start to Quality oversees Michigan’s childcare quality rating system. This website allows parents to search for childcare and find providers that match their needs.

Where to Find a Babysitter & How Much to Pay

Ideas and local places where you can find babysitters. Also, survey results for local babysitter’s going rates.

Baby & Parent Emotional Support

We’d be remiss if we didn’t address the darker side of pregnancy. While we’re hopeful that all goes well with your pregnancy and childbirth experience, for many women, pregnancy isn’t a joyful journey. Sometimes your baby has a medical problem. Sometimes you have major depression. Maybe you weren’t expecting to get pregnant right now. Maybe your pregnancy doesn’t result in taking home a healthy baby. These realities are important, too and there are resources for every scenario.

Local Mom Groups & Parent Groups

List of groups in West MI

Whether it’s parenting or fitness or finding a general support group, being part of a community is great for your well-being.
In addition to mom groups, we’ve found groups for fitness, newcomers, dads, and more.

Bright Beginnings

Parent support, playgroups & resources
Free for families (birth-K) in Kent County

The Bright Beginnings program includes Virtual, Outdoor, and in-Home personalized Visits Personal Home Visits, Playgroups, Field Trips, and Parent Meetings, Developmental Screenings, and a Resource Network. An example is the the Baby Buddies group. It’s facilitated by a Parent Educator and activities include circle time with songs and activities as well as a special topic related to development.

To get started, fill out the Interest Form and someone will get back to you.

Early On

Help with developmental delays or disabilities
Free for families (birth-36 months) in Kent County

Early on provides evaluations for your child’s development right in your home or at the Kent ISD. If they qualify, we create a plan and provide services & support to help your child reach their full potential. To connect with Early On at Kent ISD, call 616-365-2310.

MomsBloom

in-home postpartum support for families with newborns
Kent & Ottawa counties

MomsBloom provides provide quality, hands-on postpartum support to families with newborns via passionate community members. MomsBloom recruits, trains, and matches the volunteers with families who’ve asked for help. Volunteers then visit the families 2-4 hours per week for up to 12 weeks of support. Volunteer support may include adult companionship, discussing community resources (such as home visiting programs, mental health services, etc.), light housework, and caring for siblings or baby so the parent can get a much-needed shower, rest, or other self care.

Mother & Baby Program

Significant Postpartum Depression, Perinatal Mood Disorders
Pine Rest • 300 68th Street SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525

The Pine Rest Mother and Baby Partial Program is a short-term, intensive day program for women experiencing significant symptoms of postpartum depression and other perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD). The program is unique in that it allows women to receive treatment in a setting that includes a nursery for their infants up to eight months of age. Not only does this approach enhance mother/baby bonding, but it also eliminates many obstacles to attending daily treatment such as separation from the baby, childcare arrangements, and feeding issues.

Health Net of West Michigan

Kent County Residents
For expectant parents or those with a child birth to six years old.

Health Net connects families with the resources, services , and information they need to support the healthy growth and development of their children. Some of these resources include home visiting programs, playgroups, or child development information and screening. They also connect individuals to resources for health-related social needs including, but not limited to, utilities, safety, food, housing, and transportation.

Family Futures

Kent County/West MI Residents
678 Front Ave NW #210, Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Family Futures offers parent coaching, developmental screening, education, home visiting, and prevention-based programming with the goal of building strong families.

Healthy Families • Team up with a Family Support Specialist who can answer questions, connect you to resources, and give your baby the healthiest, safest start to life. For Kent County residents, regardless of income, who are pregnant or have a baby up to 3 months.

Connections • Learn how to use playtime to encourage, understand and track your child’s development from newborn through age 5. For West Michigan parents and caregivers with children 0-5.

Safe Sleep • Build the safest sleep environment possible for your child with our safe sleep resources. Eligible Kent County parents and caregivers can receive Pack ‘n Plays, books, and more.

Pregnant in West Michigan Facebook Group

So you’re pregnant. And you live in West Michigan. Welcome! This group is meant to be a hub of birth-related resources and pregnancy-related conversation as you navigate this special time in your life! You should never feel alone in your pregnancy especially when it comes to your thoughts and emotions.. so be HERE and SHARE! And meet others in your community who may be able to assist you in your journey.

Unplanned Pregnancy & Resource Support

Take heart–you’re not alone. Others have walked this path before you, and still, others are ready to step in and help walk this road with you. West Michigan has many resources set up to help you through this stressful time.

Alpha

Christian-based
1725 Division Avenue S, Grand Rapids, MI 49507

Free pregnancy tests, STI testing, and ultrasounds for those who qualify.

Planned Parenthood

Nationwide non-profit healthcare provider
425 Cherry St. SE Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503

Planned Parenthood delivers health care, sex education, and sexual health information to people of all ages, gender identities, national origins, races, and sexual orientations. Services include emergency contraception, birth control, primary care, pregnancy testing, abortion services and more.

Pregnancy Resource Center

Christian-based
415 Cherry St. SE Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503

Free pregnancy testing, STD counseling, pregnancy options counseling, ultrasounds (with exceptions), referrals for medical care, and material support like maternity clothing, baby clothes, diapers, formula, and essential equipment.

Help Pregnancy Aid

Catholic program
705 Bridge St NW Grand Rapids, MI 49504

Pregnancy testing, sonograms, material support, and instruction.

HOAP Housing

non-profit organization
(304) 804-hoap

Long-term transitional housing for young mothers and mothers-to-be, ages 16-24, and their child(ren) up to age 4. Nurturing environment, case management, transportation, advocacy, support groups, hands-on parenting & life skills.

Maternal Infant Health Program

Medicaid eligible pregnant people
infants up to 12 months of age

This program is provided by the State of Michigan. When you enroll in the Maternal Infant Health Program (MIHP), you will work with a nurse and a social worker who will help you connect with your doctor, your health plan, and providers in your community. The nurse and social worker will visit you in your home while you are pregnant and for a period after your child is born. MIHP is a statewide home visiting program in Michigan that serves Medicaid-eligible pregnant people, infants, and their families.

Pregnancy & Parenting Support Services – Kent County

Pregnant women & kids 0-18
(616) 632-7058

Medicaid Enrollment & Coordination: The Kent County Health Department provides application and enrollment assistance for Healthy Kids Medicaid for pregnant women, infants, and children; MIChild; Maternity Outpatient Medical Services (MOMS). Eligibility requirements vary by program. Services by appointment only.

WIC

Pregnant women & young kids
(616) 632-7200

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children also known as WIC is a federally funded program by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). WIC provides nutrition education, breastfeeding promotion, education and support, referrals to other health care providers, high-risk nutrition counseling, immunizations, and supplemental foods. WIC participants receive WIC benefits through the Michigan WIC bridge card which can then be used to purchase supplemental foods at participating grocery stores and pharmacies.

Early Head Start for Kent County

Pregnant women and children ages birth to age 3

The Early Head Start Home Visiting and center-based Infant Toddler programs serve pregnant women and children ages birth to three years old. Home Visitors meet with families weekly, identifying family needs, and help to identify and access agency and community resources. There is also a Home Visiting program for expectant mothers. In this program, a Home Visitor and Nurse will alternate weekly 60-90 minute visits, depending on the need of the mother. They use the Partners for a Healthy Baby curriculum, which focuses on practices to prevent poor birth outcomes, build strong families, and promote maternal and child health.

Baby & Toddler Pantries

Catholic Charities
(616) 632-7200

The Baby & Toddler Pantries of Catholic Charities West Michigan, located in Grand Rapids and Muskegon, offer a selection of free items for infant and toddler care. Pantry items include diapers, wipes, clothing, and more, for children ages 0-5 years old. Patrons must be able to provide their identification, proof of address, and birth certificate/record for each child needing items. The pantry can be utilized once each month.

Grand Rapids Baby Pantry • 303 Division Ave S, Grand Rapids MI
Muskegon Baby & Toddler Pantry • 1720 Park St, Muskegon MI

 

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1 thought on “Preparing for Childbirth in West Michigan: A Pregnancy Guide for Expecting Moms & Dads”

  1. Bethany Christian Services also offers Pregnancy Counseling!

    Services: Free, confidential pregnancy options counseling available to anyone. Financial assistance may be available. Adoption planning services available. We can help you get connected to area resources.

    901 Eastern Ave. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 24/7 Hotline 1-800-BETHANY (238-4269) or visit http://www.impregnant.org to chat or text!

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