Maternal and Child Health


Pregnancy and birthing

Pregnancy is generally viewed as a private topic and is something that is not discussed with children or with unmarried people. Some pregnant women will not participate in their community’s social events.


Typically, prenatal care within the Latin America colony is only initiated in the last trimester of pregnancy or when the woman is experiencing serious prenatal complications. Use of labour augmentation is a common practice with village midwives.

Anna has 5 children and had a nurse practitioner (NP) when they were born. However, she felt that her NP did not quite understand her because the NP did not have children of her own.  When Anna finally unregistered her children with her old NP and signed up with another NP who did have children, she felt the new NP understood her situation better. Anna was simply more comfortable with her.

In Canada, the frequency of prenatal appointments and laboratory testing is often perceived as being unnecessary and an interruption in their busy home life.  Husbands find the frequent appointments to be inconvenient because they need to take time from work. Time away from work usually means loss of income and they may fear negative repercussions from their employers.

As a service provider, you may find that prenatal instruction is more acceptable on a one to one basis. Couples are often reluctant to watch birthing videos as they may be understood to be pornographic. Drawings are often more culturally acceptable than photographs. You may find it helpful to refer to Low German Words and Phrases – Maternal health and midwifery as you communicate with expectant mothers.

After the birth of a new child, many fathers take time off work to assist in the integration of the new family member. They take on many of the household duties and provide primary care to the older children for the first few days after a new birth.


Because of extreme modesty, new mothers may find it difficult to allow a health care provider to assess the actual feeding of a baby at the breast. The women also often indicate that they would like to begin supplementing breastfeeding with formula very early as they tend to perceive that they are not producing enough milk for their infants.

“I have struggled to breastfeed all of my children. I usually give up after 5 weeks. All the things that help other women don’t seem to work for me. I have tried natural remedies and prescriptions. The prescription might do a little bit but my baby still isn’t getting enough.”

Birth control and reproduction


Breastfeeding and the rhythm method are used to assist with spacing pregnancies. Many couples experience moral and ethical dilemmas when they are encouraged to consider birth control methods and/or consider surgical sterilization interventions. Some women have experienced significant emotional turmoil and/or clinical depression after tubal ligation.

The Low German population often doubles in less than 20 years. In Canada, families with more than 4 children are considered large whereas within the Low German population, families with 8 children is quite normal. A woman’s identity is deeply embedded in childrearing, thus pregnancies and having many children is highly valued. Miscarriages and premature births are common. Couples may be unaware of the risks involved in closely spaced pregnancies.

Child safety

Safety standards in Latin America differ significantly from Canadian standards. In some regions, people can still purchase baby equipment and toys that are no longer available in Canada.  Some fathers build cribs for their children while other families purchase cribs that are built within the Low German community. Therefore the cribs do not necessarily meet safety standards. It is quite common for parents to make modifications to cribs to meet the safety requirements such as using a wire or metal link to prevent the mattress support from shifting. It is also common to bring baby items such as soothers with them when they return from visits to Latin America. These may not conform to Canadian standards.

Seat belts and car seats are not necessarily required in Latin America however, some families will continue to use their Canadian car seats when they return to Latin America for visits.  Infant car seats are often used beyond the recommended height or weight standards because infant seats are so much easier to use than the next level of car seat. Parents may not be aware of the potential danger of this practice.


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