Guidebook offers good advice to expectant Inuit parents
“It’s all targeted for an Inuit audience”
Start talking to your baby. He or she can hear you now.
That’s some of the advice offered in the 40-page Pregnancy Stories: A Guide for Expecting Inuit Moms and Dads, created by Dr. Amanda Sheppard of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
Sheppard said she saw a need for health material resources for pregnant women in Nunavut – particularly young Inuit women and their partners.
As part of a project between Sick Kids and the Public Health Agency of Canada, Sheppard worked with community members in Nunavut to create the new material.
“I saw there had been a big discrepancy between what had been funded and what hadn’t,” said Sheppard, adding that no research dollars were going into maternal health.
And the outcome, the 40-page Pregnancy Stories, along with week-by-week prenatal health guides for nurses and other health professionals, fills a gap.
“It’s all targeted for an Inuit audience,” Sheppard said of the characters, illustrations and landscapes of Pregnancy Stories. It offers prenatal health tips and explanations of the baby’s progress in both a monthly and weekly format.
The stories are based on three couples, so you’re following stories and not just reading pages that aren’t connected, she said.
One example shows a couple, who believe they can’t have a baby, hugging each other when they find out they’re having twins.
In another, a man and a woman are shown talking over video chat on computers, and he is showing the woman a baby bib.
The text says “pregnancy becomes a more positive experience when there is involvement and support from the baby’s father, when father shares parenting responsibilities, whether or not he is living with the mother.”
The pages also have tips such as “men played games with their sons that developed hunting skills,” and, “little boys or new fathers were encouraged to pack babies to ensure they will some day kill a whale.”
The materials, printed in four languages, English, Inuktitut, Inuinnaqtun and French, are now on their way to all Nunavut communities.
When Sheppard visited Iqaluit in mid-May, she brought copies to the Department of Health and Social Services and sat in on a few parenting groups.
There, people were happy to go through the material.
“Their partners were really thrilled to see that there was content for them as well,” she said.
The nurses reacted positively too.
“Their reaction was, thank goodness this has come along,” Sheppard said.
Before Pregnancy Stories, Inuit women had to find resources online. “They would have to read very generic content that wasn’t specific to them.”
The goal of creating these health resources is to improve the health and well-being of expectant families among Canada’s Inuit populations while celebrating traditional Inuit culture, Inuit Health Matters website says.
The materials were developed in recognition of the challenges that surround pregnancy and birth in Nunavut: high-risk pregnancies and poor health outcomes, coupled with the loss of culture and traditions.
The Inuit of Nunavut currently experience some of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy, pre-term births, smoking, drug and alcohol use during pregnancy, infection, newborn and infant death, and hospital readmission after birth in Canada, according to the website, where the health guides are accessible.
Also on the website, are resources about nutrition, breastfeeding, dental care, and quitting smoking.
You can find Pregnancy Stories here.