Some friends of ours moved to the United States from Korea in the 80’s and proceeded to raise their family in Portland. A few years back we were talking and we got on the subject of how different her children’s lives are compared to her own childhood growing up in Korea. When she and her husband moved they had very limited English language skills and for a long time she only communicated with her husband and her mother about the children until she began to learn English well enough to hold more in depth conversations.

My friend’s experience is very common throughout the United States and thousands of women with limited English skills give birth to first generation children every year without being able to effectively communicate with other people about the experience. Through a recent study, it was found that prenatal groups for pregnant women with limited English language skills can help new mothers become more comfortable and allow them to discuss common pregnancy and child-raising questions with other women who speak their native language.

The University of Michigan Health System conducted the new study and it was led by Japan native Dr. Sahoko Little, a physician in the Family Medicine Department in the U-M Medical School. The findings demonstrated how a supportive prenatal group was effective in optimizing pregnancy care for minority populations in a family medicine setting.

"It was very valuable to have a place to talk to people with a similar background going through similar experiences," says participant Mako Hoshino through an interpreter. Hoshino and her husband moved from Japan to Michigan in 2011. "Being in a different country and part of a different culture, these connections help make you feel less isolated and alone."

The new study was the first known to research the effect of prenatal groups on expectant Japanese women. Unlike some other studies, the group wasn’t solely for first-time mothers, but also for women who have had previous children in Japan. Pregnancy care in Japan is vastly different than in the U.S., and the effectiveness of the prenatal group was pleasantly surprising.

The women met once a month and each group consisted of six to 12 women. The visits also included basic exams as well as the documenting of weight, the baby’s heartbeat, and uterus size. The women were allowed to take each other’s blood pressure and take notes. This encouraged them to take control of their own pregnancy and learn from each other.

Source: University of Michigan Health System (2013, November 7). Pregnant woman with limited English speaking skills find comfort in prenatal support groups. ScienceDaily.

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