HARWICH – Since 2006, Jodi Belson has been serving the women and families on Cape Cod. Now she's bringing her skills as a certified nurse midwife to Outer Cape Health Services, and Belson couldn't be happier.
“I live on the Outer Cape,” Belson said. “This is my community. This is my home.”
Prior to signing on with OCHS, Belson practiced in both private and hospital-based settings, most recently with Cape Cod Hospital, and comes to Outer Cape armed with 25 years of experience as well as board certification from the American College of Nurse Midwives, a bachelor's degree in nursing from New York University, and a master's degree in nurse-midwifery, also from NYU.
Belson said she has a passion for helping women, especially in ways that help them feel empowered. She said serving the Outer Cape is of particular importance as she feels that healthcare services are more limited in this area.
“I think that healthcare services are not as accessible as they are on the Mid-Cape,” Belson said noting that the Mid-Cape area, specifically Hyannis, is where many medical facilities are located. “Not everybody's as mobile as we would think.”
Practicing on the Cape wasn't Belson's initial goal. She had originally intended to work in the Washington, D.C., area, championing women's health.
“I went into midwifery, graduated from college as a women's studies major, and had really high hopes that I would move to D.C. where women's health would be high priority,” Belson said.
But after a challenging year in the nation's capital, Belson went back to school to become a nurse and then a midwife and made her way to the Cape.
So what is a nurse midwife and how does that position differ from an obstetric-gynecologist (Ob-Gyn)? Nurse midwives are able to deliver babies in hospitals and birth centers, and occasionally offer alternative deliveries, such as tub births, working with a healthcare team in creating a care plan to address possible issues with pregnancies. Nurse midwives also conduct annual checkups, provide birth control, and offer menopause care.
In contrast, an ob-gyn is able to manage high-risk pregnancies, as well as complications that might arise during delivery. Babies are traditionally delivered in a hospital, and an ob-gyn has the necessary skills to perform cesarean section births, a type of surgery.
As part of her work with OCHS, Belson will provide a wealth of services, including prenatal care, healthcare throughout a woman's pregnancy, gynecological health such as testing and counseling, and offering birth control options including IUDs,
“I really like to empower women,” Belson said. “I work a lot with teens and adolescents so they're really in control of their health.”
In October, Cape Cod Healthcare announced that it would be cutting the availability of midwives in the birthing unit of Cape Cod Hospital, limiting their hours to 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Monday through Friday. They will only be available around the clock on weekends. In April, the maternity unit at Falmouth hospital was closed, making Cape Cod Hospital the only on-Cape hospital with a birthing unit. The moves have sparked concern in the medical community.
“I think access to care is a huge challenge,” Belson said. “I think the recent changes Cape Cod Healthcare made to their midwifery program is very challenging.”
Belson said that while the Outer Cape hasn't necessarily been lacking in coverage where a nurse midwife is concerned, the one midwife working in the region is retiring. Belson is looking forward to stepping up.
“I feel passionate that women should still have access to a midwife, so they still have choices,” she said.
For Belson, her work is all about women and ensuring their needs are met.
“Reproductive rights, choice, and providing options was always my passion,” Belson said. “Whether it's providing prenatal care and choices or birth control options, that was always my passion. Certainly delivering babies is amazing. Every birth is incredible. But it's so much more than that.”