New Castle News

January 21, 2014

Alpha Omega: Helping pregnant women is goal of local agency

Lugene Hudson
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Learning that they are pregnant is a joyous time for many women.

But it may come as unexpected news to others. The accompanying gamut of emotions — shock, stress, excitement and fear — can be overwhelming.

That scenario leads to a lot of questions, including where one can go to receive information.

The nonprofit Alpha Omega Center helps families in such circumstances.

“Our main purpose is to provide education and support to families experiencing an unplanned pregnancy,” said Sarah Bowen, development director. “Things can come crashing in and it’s important to have someone to talk to.”

The center offers thorough explanations of all the options available and answers important questions in complete confidentiality with its clients, Bowen noted.

“We serve women from the beginning to the end of their pregnancy and up to when the child is about 3 years old. We love babies. We’re here to help mothers.”

Executive Director Bonnie Schaefer added that the center aims to attract women who may be considering abortion, that they might have “full and complete information before they would go through with such a big decision.”

“We’re not political at all,” Schaefer went on. “We’ve come to believe that women are not getting the information they need.”

Formerly known as the Pregnancy Resource Center, Alpha Omega Center has offices in New Castle and Slippery Rock. The agency began in 1984 as the Crisis Pregnancy Center and was an outreach of the City Rescue Mission. It is governed by a board of eight directors.

Often, a woman comes to the office knowing she is pregnant, Bowen said, but medical grade pregnancy tests are given as confirmation. Nurses are on staff to run the tests, and limited fetal ultrasound scans are used to diagnose a viable intrauterine pregnancy and how far along the woman is in that pregnancy, she continued.

“We’re not diagnosing birth defects or determining gender,” Schaefer acknowledged. “With ultrasound, we can just say, ‘You are seven weeks pregnant’ or whatever the case may be.”

Staff professionals are available to schedule appointments, and provide brochures and pamphlets. The nursing staff also answers questions about STDs, birth control and healthy living.

While pregnancy testing and educational support is the primary mission, the center provides two other services.

New Beginnings is for parenting education and material assistance. A new mother can receive donated items including diapers, baby wipes and cloths, baby clothes, baby food and formula, Bowen said.

LifeMatters is in all the high schools in Lawrence County, and some schools in Butler and Mercer counties.

“The main message is to save sex for marriage,” Schaefer noted, adding that an Alpha Omega staff member talks to students about healthy relationships.

There is no charge for any services provided, and there are no income requirements.

“An unplanned pregnancy can happen to anyone,” Bowen said. “Pregnancy is nerve-wracking for anyone and for it to be unexpected, it throws another stress into the mix.”

The Alpha Omega Center fills a unique role in the community, Schaefer pointed out.

“No one else is doing what we’re doing,” she said. “We’re educating women about their choices, needs and resources during pregnancy.

“Our goal  is for women in our community to think of us first when they have an unplanned pregnancy.”