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> MOMs PLUS+ Maternal Child Health Services


Black mother nursing her infant

Welcome to the Maternal Child Health Program!

Our Mission: Ensure all birthing parents in Tompkins County receive equitable, holistic quality prenatal and postpartum care, through direct service provision, community collaboration, advocacy and education.

Our Vision: Become an integral service for Tompkins County families to achieve healthy pregnancies and successful birth outcomes for a thriving community.

(607) 274-6604

Toddler with her head on pregnant mothers tummy -- Getty Images

Your First Appointment

If you are pregnant and live in Tompkins County, you're entitled to support from our Maternal Child Health (MCH) program. Call (607) 274-6604 to schedule an appointment. You will meet with a Community Health (CH) Nurse who will help you with:

  • Free pregnancy testing 
  • Health Insurance application
  • Enrollment into the WIC program
  • Make an appointment with a participating OBGYN

Your Nurse

After you are enrolled into our program, a CH Nurse will be assigned to support you. They will contact you to make appointments for home visits during your pregnancy and after delivery. The number of visits may vary according to necessity. At each visit during your pregnancy, your Nurse will:

  • Assess your blood pressure, weight, and nutrition
  • Listen to your baby’s heart beat
  • Review how your pregnancy is going
  • Prepare for your labor and delivery
  • Start you on the path to successful breastfeeding

Meet Our Nurses! Click Here.

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Pregnant Black womans naked belly

FREE Childbirth Classes

As a participant you will be offered convenient childbirth education classes for you and your birthing partner at the Health Department office located at 55 Brown Road, Ithaca NY. Community Health Nurses teach the classes which cover the following topics:

  • Labor and delivery
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Medication Options
  • Creating your birth plan
  • Newborn care
  • Breastfeeding

A tour of Cayuga Birth Place, located at Cayuga Medical Center, is arranged for all participants!

Mother nursing -- CDC photo

Breastfeeding Support

Your Community Health Nurse is a Certified Lactation Counselor. She can answer your questions about breastfeeding and help you to become a successful breastfeeding mother. Your nurse will also visit you after your baby is born to weigh your baby, ask how feedings are going and answer any questions you may have about yourself and your newborn. For more information on breastfeeding, click here.


The MCH Program CARES

We care about the health of pregnant moms and their babies! That’s why we offer:

  • Care: Nursing care begins with your very first visit and concludes with a post-partum visit with you and your baby in your home.
  • Assistance: in obtaining a physician, accessing Medicaid, WIC and other community services and programs.
  • Resources: information on pregnancy, nutrition, labor, delivery, baby care and infant growth and development.
  • Education: free Childbirth Education classes and access to our book and video library.

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Meet our Nurses

Gail Birnbaum

Gail Birnbaum, BSM, BSN, RN,CMP, CLC
Bachelor of Science Midwifery, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Registered Nurse, Certified Professional Midwife, Certified Lactation Counselor.

Gail has extensive experience in Maternal-Child Health spanning several decades in a variety of settings. She formally had an independent midwifery practice in the community for twenty years and continues to teach childbirth education at Tompkins County Health Department. She is currently a participant and treasurer of the Ithaca Breastfeeding Coalition. She joined the MOMS team in 2006 and is happy to have found such a fulfilling place to serve women and their babies in Tompkins County. Gail loves the outdoors, traveling with her husband and enjoying her grandson.

Deb Axtell

Deb Axtell, BSN, RN, CLC
Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Registered Nurse, Certified Lactation Counselor.

Deb came to the MOMS program in 1990, after working in various hospitals in New York State in Pediatrics, Maternity, Special Care Nursery, and Labor and Delivery. Deb enjoys Public Health Nursing because she gets to share knowledge and skills learned from the hospital setting, with moms in the more relaxed home setting. She especially enjoys answering questions about breastfeeding and how beneficial it is to mom and baby. Deb finds the variety of cultures in Tompkins County most interesting. She knows that motherhood can be uncharted territory in any culture.

Celeste Rakovich

Celeste Rakovich, BSN, RN, CLC
Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Registered Nurse, Certified Lactation Counselor.

Celeste is an experienced pediatric and Maternal- Child Health nurse. She has worked in home care with special needs children, ages birth to 21, as well as in hospital settings on the Pediatric unit and Labor and Delivery. She Joined the MOMS team in 2016 as a full time Community Health Nurse and programs outreach coordinator. While Celeste is passionate about nursing, on her off days she also enjoys swimming and gardening with her young family of six. She speaks Russian, Spanish and is enthusiastic about empowering women through education and support.

Contact us!

Make your first appointment today. Call (607) 274-6604.

If you are currently enrolled in our program, feel free to call your Nurse between scheduled visits with any pregnancy, infant and/or breastfeeding questions that you may have.

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