Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mentoring Teen Moms Upmc's Maikuru Program Teaches Young Moms How to Care for Themselves, Set Goals for Successful Future

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mentoring Teen Moms Upmc's Maikuru Program Teaches Young Moms How to Care for Themselves, Set Goals for Successful Future

Article excerpt

The struggle of being a teen mom is something Jeannette E. South- Paul, a maternity care provider at the UPMC Matilda Theiss Health Center in the Hill District, has worried about for her young patients.

She knew that women who become pregnant in their teens are more likely to give birth to a child with low birth weight and to suffer from depression. They are less likely to graduate from high school and more likely to become pregnant again before they reach adulthood.

"Life is very difficult for them, and the more I cared for them, the more I realized they had unique needs," Dr. South-Paul said.

They were needs that couldn't be provided just by writing a prescription. The young women she cared for could benefit from the advice and experience of older women, she decided.

So four years ago, Dr. South-Paul, who is chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School, started what she called the Maikuru Program, a mentoring project for teen moms. She adopted its name -- meaning great aunt, big mama or wise woman of the village -- from the Shona language in southern Africa.

The primary goals of the program, funded by the Heinz Endowments and the Grable Foundation, are to prevent teen moms from having another pregnancy before reaching adulthood and to encourage them to finish high school and obtain a job.

About 50 maikurus and teen moms have participated in the program during its first four years, attending regular meetings to discuss topics such as parenting, but also discussions about how to use contraception, how to enter into healthy relationships and how to deal with dysfunctional ones.

"It can't just be about better care for her baby," Dr. South- Paul said. "It's got to be about how to better care for herself."

The teen moms are often referred to the program by other agencies in Allegheny County, and the maikurus are volunteers from a wide spectrum of backgrounds, ranging from finance to nursing. …

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