On February 9, 2016, National Health Foundation began its eighth year of the Harold Cares About Your Future: Pregnant and Parenting Teen (PPT) program, which was created to empower teen mothers to have healthy pregnancies and parenting experiences. The program serves low-income, predominantly Latina and African American girls in South Los Angeles.
For many of our participants, maintaining a healthy pregnancy is a daily effort that requires what seem like simple, yet are significant changes in behavior. Whether it be eating healthier, taking prenatal vitamins or exercising more, the program provides space for each mom to discuss behaviors she is trying to improve. The program also connects participants with community resources for healthcare, child care and career planning. The combination of small-group education sessions with community partners gives participants access to different forms of support. Ultimately, the goal of the PPT program is to increase rates of high school graduation, and decrease the incidence of low birthweight babies and recidivism.
This year, a group of 22 girls at Thomas Riley High met once a week for 10 weeks to learn about nutrition, fetal development and child development, to share their experiences with labor, delivery and motherhood, and to discuss healthcare, child care and other family services.
Rebecca, an expectant mom and a sophomore at Thomas Riley High, had a few things to share about her experience in the program:
How did you find out about the Pregnant and Parenting Teen (PPT) program?
I found out about the program through my principal, Ms. Roussel. My math teacher, Ms. Vester, encouraged me to attend. She wanted me to get involved in a program for new moms.
What did you think the PPT program was going to be about? Were you surprised by what it really was?
I thought it was going to be a class with tips for pregnancy and parenting. I was surprised with how open the meetings were. Everyone got a chance to share their experiences. Before being in the group, I was scared to go into labor but after hearing the girls’ stories, I’m happy to know that everything will end up okay.
What was one thing that really stuck with you?
I really liked everything we learned. When we talked about fetal development, for example, I learned that a baby can open and close their eye lids starting in week 26, during the second trimester. The topic that stuck with me the most was when we talked about sleeping patterns. I never realized how important sleeping schedules could be, for both the mom and the baby.
Did any of your behaviors change or improve throughout the program?
Yes, I started practicing meditation and relaxation techniques after we learned about how stress can affect a pregnancy. I also started walking more. It was a little hard at first, but I was able to make the changes I needed to have a healthier pregnancy.
How will you use some of the things you learned going forward?
I’m going to keep all the notes we took in class to use in the future, especially the ones about child development because I think that’s really important.
Participants at Thomas Riley High graduated from the program and received their certificate of completion on May 3, 2016. The PPT program is currently in session at McAlister High School. They are set to have their graduation on June 8, 2016.