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  • Writer's pictureICM

ICM Maternity Project

Updated: Jun 25, 2023

Written by Monika Puchala

Maternity Project Co-ordinator

Connecting pregnant migrant women and new parents with NHS maternity services to increase their confidence and wellbeing in using health services.

“You make me feel safety and I feel that you really care about me”

An important part of ICM is the Community Champions who are volunteers that work across different communities. With open minds, passion and unique knowledge they connect members of the community with public service providers. They constantly support this dialogue by providing interpretation and translations and also by sharing migrants’ points of view, which will help to increase accessibility to services.

At this moment 15 Community Champions support their communities. The Maternity project is a continuation of their hard work in supporting women and families on their maternity journeys. They are always ready to help and their work is increasing the chances for positive outcomes. It is a compilation of knowledge, experience and empathy for those who are unable to deal with challenging situations on their own. Deep understanding of barriers faced by migrants creates an atmosphere of understanding and acceptance.

Amongst all the different migrants’ barriers, language is the most recognisable and the easiest to identify in contact with public services.

For these women, who attend class every week, it is a chance to gain a better understanding of the maternity services and to build confidence in contacting them.

By sharing their experience of being at different stages on their maternity journey these women create their own unique community and peer to peer support. Who can understand you better than another person in a similar situation and one that faces similar challenges?

Migrants who make the decision about living in another country are usually still in touch with their relatives and friends from their country of origin but unfortunately it could be not enough. Regular classes help them to reduce their isolation by providing the opportunity to spend time with other women, ICM has further supported this by lending tablets to a few of them. This shows them they are important and worthy of effort.

In many situations we speak about migrants in general, just to focus attention on their different cultural backgrounds and spoken language, but we should always remember how different communities are and how many different needs they have. When we create materials for specific communities, we try to involve community members in supporting us and in being the best possible consultants who can provide the most significant feedback. With the help of our Roma Trustee who sits on the board of ICM we decided to create materials directly for the Roma community.

Over a few months, we spoke with different community members about their individual community’s needs and about the best ways to create a piece of work providing the best support. After discussion, it was decided to create a series of short films/presentations, that would include audio information. We have planned to make 8-10 of these films, which will provide simple information about different stages of the maternity journey. We would like to provide basic information in the most accessible way by using more visual tools and also by creating material that can be easily adapted for different communities. In the first film we will be presenting important information about the preconception stage.

X is migrant woman, expecting her first child and she has a lot of questions. Not always on her appointments with the midwife is there enough time to speak about all of them. X is Muslim and she started to worry about privacy during her baby's delivery. She watched some films on YouTube and saw that most of the women were wearing quite short hospital gowns.

X spoke with our Maternity Project Coordinator about her doubts and they had chance to have a longer chat about delivering her baby.

We talked to X to address her concerns. At ICM’s Health and Wellbeing Day we also had the opportunity to speak with the community midwives about X’s situation. As a result, we were able to provide information about all the solutions which could be included to give X reassurance that all professionals care about her religion and personal beliefs. X could wear a long- sleeved dress and of course she would be able to cover herself as much as possible".

We are regularly attending Maternity Equity Forums meetings which is a safe space to share study cases and ideas which could bring positive outcomes for women and families supported by different organisations. Also, we are taking part in meetings of the Diversity Group run by Healthwatch Suffolk and we are the voice of our learners and their families. We are bringing to the table their feedback and by sharing our experience we try to show potential barriers and gaps which could lead to inequality in access to health services.

On 10th of October we took part in Mental Health Day run by Wellbeing Suffolk. It was time to speak with other organisations about the impact of stress, language barriers and cultural barriers on their wellbeing and also about available support in different areas. It was an opportunity to think in different ways about language which is used around mental health and how difficult it could be translating materials when some words or terms don't exist in another language.

" A really good session, great hearing experiences and what would help to improve our service.” Steph Roberson – Infant Feeding Coordinator

Our work on the project continues to progress but what is most important is that we are able to say that we are changing the lives of our learners and their families. It is a positive change and brings them hope. To identify all areas of provided information we asked our Community Champions and Volunteers about information which they share with our learners. Of course, because we speak about our learners the most popular questions are regarding education but not only. We built this relationship through years and gradually we became a trustworthy source of information.

Many learners/ ICM participants with low income are struggling to pay bills and support their families financially. So far with the Household Support Grant and advice and support regarding the Cost of Living Crisis we have directly helped 41 families and we are aware that this number could increase in the next few months.

“I have enjoyed todays session very much. It was very informative and I am happy that all questions, concerns or worries were answered professionally by the hosts/NHS staff. The ladies in the group seemed very relaxed and could talk confidentially about their situation. Thanks very much for listening and providing support and reassurance.” Workshop participant

It has been a very busy year, but the next year is looking to be even busier with more workshops planned with Maternity Services; training attended; more ESOL and maternity classes – hopefully expanding into the west of the county as well as further work to engage with the Roma community and completion of the animated films aimed at this community.

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