Finding Support in a New Home

By Marina Mendizabal

There are various barriers that can prevent a mother from accessing quality prenatal multivitamins and nutrition education. Our field partners around the United States are trusted resources in their local communities where women can seek affordable and accessible care. Shaniqua’s story showcases the commitment both mothers and our field partners have to overcoming obstacles on the path to health.

Shaniqua scrolled through the local clinic options Google populated for her small town in Iowa. A recent transplant from Chicago and already halfway through her pregnancy, Shaniqua was doing her research to find the right resources and doctors for her family in their new hometown. Her neighbor had mentioned a local organization, the American Home Finding Association (AHFA), and when it popped up during her search, she decided to make an appointment. 

The AHFA has been in service for 100 years. Beginning as an adoption agency, they have since branched out to almost forty different departments servicing women and children across six counties in Iowa. Jamie, a nurse working for AHFA, said the organization provides various maternal child health programs. "We do a lot of pre-dietary education. We see a mom postpartum with her new baby, and then we follow children from ages one through five providing nutrition services and dietician counseling. We test their leads, their hemoglobins, and we do a lot of dental education. Just a lot of family services," she explained.

When Shaniqua arrived at the AHFA office, it was Jamie who she met with for her initial prenatal appointment. Moving mid-pregnancy had caused Shaniqua to get out of some regular routines, including taking prenatal multivitamins as she had during her previous three pregnancies. As a result, she expected that her iron levels might be low, and the tests confirmed her mother’s intuition was right. "I was scared at first,” she said. But, it was during that first appointment that Shaniqua received a bottle of Vitamin Angels' multiple micronutrient supplements. "I started taking my prenatals right away. Now, I am taking them every day, as I should," Shaniqua commented.

"Most of my moms who have had babies before know what a prenatal vitamin is,” Jamie said. “[They] know that they … should be taking it most of the time. But most of my moms I would say, don't know why they should be taking it.” While the mothers Jamie sees typically want the best for themselves and their children, they sometimes lack knowledge of specific vitamins and minerals. “We tell them that folic acid helps to prevent, for example, Spina Bifida… we use that term a lot, just because it's so highly recognized. No one wants that necessarily to be their baby. Everyone wants a healthy baby. And just to make sure that they know that the prenatal vitamin is for their baby also. It's not just for their wellbeing. It's for their baby's health," she added. 

Shaniqua has been regularly taking Vitamin Angels' prenatal multivitamins, and with less than a month away from delivering her baby, she shared, "Everything is back to normal with my iron and blood levels!" "You know, it's a lot... It's pretty crazy the pains I have been having, on and off, but …my family is excited. Kids are excited...I just want to hold her."

“ I hope that when our moms come through we are able to help them, and we make sure that they leave feeling like good moms. That they feel like they have a better means to provide for their children in whatever aspect of their lives they're trying to provide. ” Jamie, Nurse at American Home Finding Association

The charismatic mother-to-be hopes all of her children get a good education and “go on with their life, [but] don't forget about mom. And always, you know, enjoy their life." While she enjoys dreaming of what the future holds for her family, she’s determined to accomplish her own goals, too. "I wanna go back to school because I want to be a nurse. If not that, I wanted to go into business management, I wanna open up my own business. I got a lot of plans. And, I will still have time for my kids."

AHFA’s caring team works hard to provide support that goes beyond just administering tests and filling out forms. Jamie said, "I hope that when our moms come through, we are able to help them, and we make sure that they leave feeling like good moms. That they feel like they have a better means to provide for their children in whatever aspect of their lives they're trying to provide." 

Since AHFA started receiving prenatal multivitamins from Vitamin Angels in 2015, “we have definitely seen a change,” shared Katie, their Health Services Director. Now, clients like Shaniqua have access to an additional, free resource. "We want our clients to start the prenatal vitamins as soon as possible...So they’re available to whomever may need them.”

Vitamin Angels collaborates with over 300 pregnancy health centers, clinics, and related organizations across every U.S. state to make quality prenatal multivitamins and nutrition education available to pregnant women in need. Expecting mothers don’t need to wait until they enroll in Medicaid in order to get a vitamin prescription. They don’t have to worry about transportation to the pharmacy. And they don’t need to be concerned about being able to afford prenatals. Last year, we reached about 200,000 women here at home!