Pregnant women who emigrate to the United States from non-English-speaking countries face a gauntlet of challenges when they arrive — not just having a healthy pregnancy and raising a healthy baby, not just navigating an unfamiliar medical system, but doing it all in a second language.
“A lot of the time, there’s a lot of isolation,” said Bethesda North nurse Amy Currin on Thursday. “They move here with their partners, and they’re on their own.”
At Bethesda North OB-GYN Center, where Currin works, a special Spanish-language edition of the “Centering Pregnancy” maternity class breaks down the communication barrier to help expectant mothers keep themselves and their babies healthy. Currin is in the thick of it, leading participants through lessons about labor, breastfeeding, baby safety and maternal health.
“It’s like you’re in your own home because the people that take care of us are very kind,” said mom-to-be Catherine Placios, a participant who heard about the program through a friend.
Having Spanish-speaking staff like Currin is one part of the program’s success. The other part is creating a community where mothers who primarily speak Spanish can support each other and feel less alone.
“They can learn from each other, and we’re hoping for better outcomes for moms and babies,” Currin said.
Maternal health education is important for all women in Cincinnati, she added. Hamilton County struggles more with infant mortality than most places in the states of Ohio.
In 2019, 96 Hamilton County babies died before their first birthday. That figure means the county’s rate of infant deaths per 1,000 live births was around 9.1 — higher than Ohio’s 7.1 overall average, which was itself higher than the United States’ cumulative average of 5.66.
According to Cradle Cincinnati, a local nonprofit, most of the Hamilton County deaths were connected to issues caused by a pre-term birth. That fact means it’s especially important for doctors to focus on the health of Hispanic women, who in 2019 were more likely to give birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
Placios said she’s optimistic about her own pregnancy. Currin is, too — for all of the women in the class. They attend 10 Centering Pregnancy sessions and receive regular checkups at the same time before giving birth, and they get critical information about newborn care in the meantime.
Anyone wishing to sign up for a Centering Pregnancy class, which is offered in both English and Spanish, can learn more here.