Psychology Senior Launches Program for New and Future Mothers
Spring Graduate's Program — Comenzando Bien — Aims to Decrease Preterm Births in Dallas County
Adriana Portillo, who is graduating this week from the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, volunteers at UT Dallas' Center for Children and Families Juega Conmigo program. She is working with the center to offer a program for pregnant women called Comenzando Bien, Spanish for starting off right.
Adriana Portillo saw how some Latina women struggle with where to get answers to questions about managing pregnancy and caring for newborns.
“We wanted to provide a place where these women feel comfortable and can ask important, personal questions,” Portillo said.
Aimed at Latina and African-American women who are planning for pregnancy, are pregnant or are new mothers, the free, eight-week program is supported by the March of Dimes, UT Dallas’ Center for Children and Families (CCF) and Portillo’s sorority, Sigma Lambda Gamma.
The program aims to decrease the number of preterm births in predominantly minority communities in Dallas County. The curriculum is bilingual and covers topics such as nutrition during pregnancy, prenatal care and stress management.
“I really do hope this class can make mothers feel at ease and comfortable about having their babies, and understand that the class is a safe place.”
“Many of these women have misconceptions, like ‘If I'm not showing, I don't need to go to my checkup yet because like the baby is fine.’ Or, ‘If he's still moving, he's fine,’" Portillo said. “In addition, many of these mothers have a lot of wariness and unease with doctors, primarily because a lot of doctors don't speak Spanish. So they feel uncomfortable being asked personal questions.
“They often feel very isolated and alone, and they're dealing with this scary thing — carrying a human being,” she said. “They just don't know what's normal and what's not normal.”
Portillo launched the program last year, but struggled to attract participants. This year she is working with CCF to spread the word about the program, which is set to begin June 29.
Portillo initially came to UT Dallas as a neuroscience major but realized that she was better suited for psychology and child learning and development. She had already developed a passion for working with children while working as a nanny and also helping her special-needs brother.
She said she was drawn to UT Dallas by its diverse campus community.
“I remember walking around on my campus tour and seeing the diversity on the campus, and heard about the Multicultural Center, the multicultural club, and a multicultural sorority. I saw a good mix of students and I felt very welcomed,” she said.
After graduation, Portillo hopes to enter a master’s degree program and, eventually, become a counselor.
Adriana Baird, CCF program manager and community liaison specialist, supervises Portillo in the center’s Juega Conmigo program and has provided guidance for Comenzando Bien. She said Portillo is motivated and committed to children.
“She has a heart for children and is very dedicated and dependable. I know she will end up doing something that helps other people,” Baird said.
Portillo is enthusiastic about the summer program.
“I'm very excited to see mothers attend and I'm very excited to break a lot of misinformation that some women have about pregnancy and parenting,” she said. “I really do hope this class can make mothers feel at ease and comfortable about having their babies, and understand that the class is a safe place. I want to encourage them that anything is possible.”
Spring 2017 Commencement Coverage
Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].