Many Latina women who live in the Canal deliver
their babies in hospital wards without family
support or limited English skills
to communicate with staff.
Most end up in the emergency room at time of delivery - where doctors are harried, the expecting mother is most vulnerable, and the language barrier can be humiliating and even catastrophic. Infants born to these mothers are also at higher risk for health issues.
That’s why Canal Alliance created
Compañeras – a program
that provides companionship for pregnant
women and helps bridge the cultural gap between
medical staff and laboring mother.
Compañeras was co-founded in 1992 to address a growing need for access to life-saving pre- and postnatal healthcare for monolingual Spanish speaking pregnant women. The program has two main activities: to help bilingual Canal women become trained childbirth coaches, or compañeras; and to match trained compañeras with monolingual Spanish speaking pregnant women for prenatal, childbirth, and postpartum support.
We recruit Latinas from the Canal neighborhood to become compañeras through Canal Alliance's referral network. Most women who sign up to become compañeras are mothers who have received support from the program and would like to give back. Our program builds on naturally occurring networks within the Latina community, and this "peer advocate" model of outreach and service delivery has proven very effective.
In the past 13 years, compañeras trained in our program have assisted 600 births. Specifically, compañera-assisted births report shorter labors, less medication during labor and delivery, decreased c-section and emergency room deliveries, and more positive birth experiences.