8.7 Services to Pregnant Women

What Is It?

Although pregnant women do not enroll in a program option, a home visitor may be providing services through home visits if that best meets the needs of the expectant family.

The Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act (645(i)(2)(G) requires that the home visitor “shall know the content related to the relationship of health and well-being of pregnant women to prenatal and early child development.” The Head Start Program Performance Standards [45 CFR 1304.40 (c) (1)–(3)] describe the services that the Early Head Start (EHS) grantee must provide to pregnant women and assisting pregnant women to obtain the services. EHS programs must provide prenatal education on: fetal development, including the risks from smoking and alcohol; labor and delivery; postpartum recovery, including information on maternal depression; and the benefits of breastfeeding. Services that the grantee must assist pregnant women in gaining access to include comprehensive prenatal health care and postpartum health care (including services to address postpartum depression, if applicable).

When home visitors are able to work with expectant families, they begin promoting a secure parent–child relationship. Learning about how their infant is developing and feeling responsible for the baby’s care in utero is a powerful beginning to the parents’ bonding process.

Finally, while pregnant women are not enrolled in a program option, many programs provide them with:

  • information;

  • referrals;

  • parenting workshops; and

  • socialization experiences.

How To

You support the expectant family’s understanding of the relationship between the health and well-being of the pregnant woman to the well-being of the fetus and the child by:

  • involving your Health Coordinator and your Health Services Advisory Committee to review and recommend prenatal curriculum(a) that would meet the needs of the families you serve. There are specific curricula available to support culturally competent service delivery for teens, for American Indian/Alaska Native families, for Latino families, and other more generic curricula.

  • being trained in your program’s pregnancy curriculum(a) to provide skills for approaching these topics and background material for a deeper understanding.

  • having a process among the team that is responsible for serving expectant families, for keeping current on information, and for evaluating material on various organizations’ websites—some of which may provide appealing, animated explanations of aspects of pregnancy.

  • becoming familiar with information on the effects of maternal stress, nutrition, tobacco, and alcohol on the developing brain and the impact of maternal oral health on infant health.

  • having relationships with local birthing hospitals and MOUs with community agencies offering relevant services to women, especially pregnant women.

  • offering screening and/or information on risk factors such as smoking, depression, substance use, etc.

  • helping families to prepare for the two-week home visit and follow-up.

  • ensuring that families are connected to services and information as needed.

  • helping the family plan to enroll the newborn in the appropriate program option.

Learn More

Early Head Start (EHS) programs are in a unique position to support pregnant women through a combination of systems and services as required by the Head Start Program Performance Standards. EHS program managers will discover that services to pregnant women begin with planning; community partnerships also play a key role in serving pregnant women. EHS program managers may use their community assessment tools to gain an understanding of the needs of the population they are serving, as well as to identify available community resources.

Considerations for the enrollment process of pregnant women are identified. The considerations serve as a useful guide for grantee and program administrators. Applicable Head Start Program Performance Standards and resources provide additional information.

This tip sheet discusses planning and programming considerations at a time when Early Head Start services may be crucial. The guide also lists applicable Head Start Program Performance Standards and other resources that provide additional information.

Having a newborn can be tough. The two-week visit is an important check-in for staff and families. This tip sheet describes the content of that visit.

These guidelines from the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include a list of vaccines for multiple illnesses and recommendations about whether pregnant women should take each vaccine. Head Start health managers can use these facts to educate staff and parents about vaccinations before, during, and after pregnancy.