The Hispanic women interviewed first knew they were pregnant by a missed period. The person they told first was often their husband. For prenatal care the women choose home care visitors or doctors. For many Hispanic women prenatal care is often delayed due to lack of insurance, language barriers, cultural differences, and fear of discrimination. Hispanic women often refuse to get a pap smear in the beginning of their pregnancy out of fear of losing the baby.
Hispanic families have several traditional methods to determine the sex of the baby. One method would be to use a ring attached to a piece of string, which they would dangle over the pregnant women’s belly or hand. The motion of the ring would determine the sex; back and forth motion is a boy and circular motion is a girl. Another method is to observe the shape of the women’s belly. A “pointy” shaped belly would be a boy and a “wide” shaped belly a girl. It is also thought that a male baby will cause the pregnant mother to gain more weight than if she were carrying a female baby. Most of the women interviewed used ultrasound as opposed to traditional methods.
Significant others were often present for prenatal care visits. To ensure a healthy baby the women would eat well, drink a lot of water, and walk as much as possible. Women would resist drinking soda or coffee. It is believed that during pregnancy that cravings need to be met or the baby will be born with birthmarks. Many women would avoid greens or beans as they are thought to cause infection during pregnancy.
Labor and Delivery
When labor began the majority of Hispanic women interviewed desired a natural birth experience. Many of the women labored in the hospital and significant others as well as the parents were often present. Traditionally, a Rebozo (Mexican shawl) was used to help alleviate labor pains and for positioning of mother and fetus. Other methods of pain relief were breathing exercise, walking, massage, and having thoughts of being strong and non-vocal. When delivery is near, the doors and windows are kept shut to prevent the evil eye. The placenta was traditionally kept and buried in the yard of the family. It was believed that if the placenta was not buried, the child may become blind, suffer stomach pains, and be highly sensitive to weather changes. Some families also chose to keep the umbilical cord after it dried and fell off.
Immediately after the delivery of the placenta female relatives would rush to put on Faja, a band that is placed around the abdomen of the mother and baby. This band is thought to prevent herniation. For the first forty days post partum the mother and baby traditionally received total care from family. Diet changes included no green foods, cold foods, or beans because it was believed to cause colic and infection. Honey, rosemary tea, and chamomile tea were believed to help in the healing process. New mothers would often have other moms come and breastfeed their child. It was a common belief that colostrum was not sufficient and they wanted to ensure the baby had an adequate diet.