July 22, 2019

Happy Mothers Program Launched

Recently, the Happy Mothers Assyrian/Chaldean Group Pregnancy Care Program officially launched at Craigieburn Centre.

The Happy Mothers Group was established in July 2017 to provide an integrated, culturally safe program for Assyrian/Chaldean pregnant women who were either newly immigrated or refugees, and had settled in the north. It is the only group pregnancy care offered to Assyrian/Chaldean women in Victoria, and is guided by the mothers to deliver education and support based on their individual and cultural needs.

The team who deliver the program – Marie Treloar (Team Leader and Childbirth and Parenting Education Coordinator, Northern Health), Bronwyn Madigan (Maternal and Child Health Nurse, Hume Council), Michelle Griffiths (Parent Support Worker, Hume Council), Maria Toma (Bicultural Worker, VICSEG New Futures), Bronwyn Gellie (Midwife, Northern Health) and May Khoshaba (Interpreter, Northern Health), were delighted to see over 20 pregnant and postnatal women return with their babies to take part in the celebrations.

Team Leader, Marie Treloar, said, “At Northern Hospital Epping, we service a richly diverse community – migrant and refugee women are a vulnerable group who are susceptible to poor birth outcomes. When the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute approached us to pilot an innovative model of group pregnancy care for this population, we did not hesitate!”

“To date, we’ve had 93 women through our program, with a high breast feeding rate continuing past six months,” Marie added.

Debra Bourne, Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officer, opened the event speaking about the challenges of a growing population in the north, which includes a richly diverse community.

“Northern Health is delighted to partner with Hume Council and VICSEG to deliver this innovative program. Our aim is to increase breast feeding rates in the community, while ensuring health literacy and engagement with health services and meeting the optimal health care needs of our migrant populations,” she said.

Lena Casparian, a past group member, came with her six month old baby, Isabel. While speaking about her Happy Mothers journey and the tools she learnt for giving birth naturally, she also added:

“In the past six months, I’ve learnt about the importance of exclusively breastfeeding, as well as being socially engaged with my community and how it can help with my emotional and psychological wellbeing.”

Salam Dankha from Foundation House, spoke of her own experience as a new arrival to Australia and her childbearing experiences in Iraq, emphasising the contrasting experiences of her daughter giving birth in Australia.

“Connecting with the community and having their support in navigating the services in a new country is crucial,” she added.

During the fortnightly education sessions, women also receive the recommended antenatal appointment by a midwife, and appropriate referrals are made to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy and birth. The presence of a Maternal and Child Health Nurse (MCHN) ensures the women uptake postnatal services and make regular visits to see the MCHN for the next four years of their child’s growth and development. The Parent Support Worker provides expert childhood care, providing any necessary referrals in relation to child health. The Bicultural Worker and Interpreter are present to ensure information is provided in the group’s chosen language, as well as to ensure cultural safety.

“We do not have a set agenda or curriculum when we deliver the two hour sessions. The women who attend choose their learning needs relevant to them at the time. Education therefore becomes individualised, specific and timely to where they’re at,” Marie explained.

“We were very excited to see many of the women return with their babies to celebrate the launch with us. It reinforced to us that the women had made worthwhile connections and felt comfortable to return, reporting the sessions had been very useful in their pregnancy, birth and postnatal periods.”