Frequently Asked Questions

A Public Health Nurse can help you through the following bilingual and bicultural services:

  • Home visits to pregnant and/or parenting mothers and their families
  • Health assessments for mother and baby
  • Identification of the needs of mother, baby and other family members, and referrals to services that meet those needs
  • Follow-up support and information
  • Direct case management to assure needed services are received and health, safety and well being are achieved
  • Education to mother and family on a range of health issues and services, including:
    • Family Planning & Reproductive Health
    • Prenatal and Postpartum Care
    • Well Baby Doctor Visits- Immunizations
    • Home Safety, Car Seats, & Injury Prevention
    • Infant Care
    • Breastfeeding
    • Postpartum Depression
    • Alcohol, Drug Use, and Mental Health Issues
    • Nutrition
    • Prevention and Response to Lead Poisoning
    • Prevention, Response & Crisis Intervention for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
    • Prevention and Response to Domestic Violence
    • Teen Pregnancy & Parenting

If you would like information or have questions regarding the effects of medications, illnesses, recreational drugs, and other environmental agents on pregnancy or breastfeeding, contact MotherToBaby by calling (866) 626-6847, texting (855) 999-3525 or email/chat via their website at https://mothertobaby.org. It is free and confidential.

Yes! Public Health Nurses (PHN) and Health Service Aides (HSA) visit mothers, children, and teens at their homes or at other convenient locations. At these visits the PHN will assess the health of the mother and baby/child, provide information, resources and referrals, and will follow-up to make sure the family was able to access needed services.

You may ask to speak with a Public Health Nurse when you call the following locations:

  • Santa Barbara (805) 681-5466
  • Lompoc (805) 737-6442
  • Santa Maria (805) 346-8436
  • Toll Free Information Line (800) 288-8145

MCAH Program's goals are to improve the health of all newborns in Santa Barbara County. We aim to increase access to early and continuous prenatal care among all pregnant women.We provide access to free or low-cost prenatal care by linking pregnant mothers and their families to doctor's offices or community clinics in their area. Regardless of residency status, any uninsured pregnant woman in Santa Barbara County can call for referral to a clinic where she can start her prenatal care. Santa Barbara County Health Care Center Locations: Health Care Centers

MCAH provides access to free or low-cost prenatal care by linking pregnant mothers and their families to doctor offices or community clinics in their area. Regardless of residency status, any uninsured pregnant woman in Santa Barbara County can call for referral to a clinic where she can start her prenatal care. Here are some programs to ask about:

  • Comprehensive Perinatal Services Program (CPSP)
    • A Medi-Cal benefit program for pregnant women that combines nutrition, health education, and psychosocial support services with prenatal care and vitamins to help women deliver a healthy baby. Ask your prenatal care provider about this program at your first prenatal care visit.
  • Presumptive Eligibility (PE)
    • A program that pays for care now while you apply for Medi-Cal.
  • Medi-Cal
    • The state medical insurance program for low income families. If you are not a documented resident but live in California, you can still qualify for Medi-Cal.
  • Medi-Cal Access Program (MCAP) (formerly known as AIM)
    • The Medi-Cal Access program provides low-cost health care insurance for pregnant women who do not qualify for Medi-Cal or Medicare Part A and Part B, MCAP can also help if you have other health insurance that doesn't cover maternity services or with a maternity-only deductible or copayment greater than $500. Check with your other health insurance plan to see if your deductible or copayment is for maternity-only services.

It's important to eat smart and make healthy food choices to support your baby's growth during pregnancy.

Try to eat foods from each of the five food groups every day. They provide important nutrients that you and your baby need.

In general, most women need around 300 extra calories per day during pregnancy. (One extra healthy snack, such as four fig bars and a glass of skim milk, will provide these calories.) However, the exact amount of extra calories you need depends on your weight before pregnancy. Talk to your health provider to learn more about a healthy eating plan that's right for you.

Take Folic AcidFolic acid is a B vitamin that helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord (called neural tube defects). All women of childbearing age should take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before pregnancy and during early pregnancy, as part of a healthy diet. Your healthy diet should include foods that are good sources of folic acid and folate (the form of folic acid that occurs naturally in food). Examples are:

  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Enriched grain products
  • Beans
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Orange juice

Meals

Eat four to six smaller meals a day instead of three bigger ones to help relieve the heartburn and discomfort you feel as your baby grows bigger.

Snacks: Cheese, yogurt, fruit and vegetables are good, healthy snacks. Peanut butter and nuts are also good, if you aren't allergic to them.

Liquids: Drink at least six to eight glasses of water, juice or milk every day.

Vitamins: Take a multivitamin or prenatal vitamin every day. Ask your health care provider if you need to take an iron or calcium supplement, too.

Caffeine: Limit the caffeine you get each day to 200 milligrams. That's about the amount in one 12-ounce cup of coffee. Caffeine amounts in coffee depend on the brand you drink and how it's made. So check the label on the package, or ask at your coffee shop. Instead of drinking regular coffee, try coffee that's decaffeinated (has a smaller amount of caffeine). Caffeine is also found in tea, chocolate, soda and some over-the-counter medicine. Read labels on food, drinks and medicine to know how much caffeine you're getting.

Foods to Avoid
Some foods can make you and your baby sick. Avoid these foods that can cause food poisoning or contain harmful chemicals:

  • Raw fish, especially shellfish.
  • Soft-scrambled eggs and foods made with raw or lightly cooked eggs.
  • Unpasteurized juices.
  • Raw sprouts, especially alfalfa sprouts.
  • Unpasteurized soft cheeses, such as brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort, queso blanco, queso fresco and Panela.
  • Unpasteurized milk and any foods made from it.
  • Herbal supplements and teas.
  • Fish that can be high in mercury, like shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.
    • It's OK for pregnant women to eat a limited amount of fish that have small amounts of mercury. You can eat up to 12 ounces of these fish a week. The 12 ounces can include:
    • Shrimp, salmon, pollock, catfish and canned light tuna
    • Albacore (white tuna): Don't eat more than 6 ounces of this tuna in one week.
  • Raw or undercooked meat, poultry, seafood and hot dogs.
    • Deli meats (such as ham and bologna) can cause food poisoning. Avoid them or reheat them before eating.
  • Refrigerated pates, meat spreads or smoked seafood. Canned and shelf-stable versions are safe.

For more information, read

Secondhand smoke is the smoke inhaled from burning tobacco (such as a cigarette) by a smoker. Pregnant women and babies should not be exposed to secondhand smoke. There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. Secondhand smoke increases a baby's risk of dying from SIDS or pregnancy complications. California Smokers' Helpline:

English: (800) NO-BUTTS ((800) 662-8887)

Spanish: (800) 456-6386

Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin): (800) 838-8917

Korean: (800) 556-5564

Vietnamese: (800) 778-8440

TDD/TTY Hearing Impaired (800) 933-4TDD ( (800) 933-4833 )

Tobacco Chewer's Helpline (800) 844-CHEW ( (800) 844-2439 )

If you would like information or have questions regarding the effects of medications, recreational drugs, and other environmental agents on pregnancy or breastfeeding, contact MotherToBaby by calling (866) 626-6847, texting (855) 999-3525, or email/chat via their website at https://mothertobaby.org/ . It is free and confidential.

There is no safe level of alcohol use for pregnant women. Alcohol use, including beer, wine coolers, hard lemonade, is the leading preventable cause of birth defects, especially mental retardation and learning disabilities and short attention spans. Some children whose mothers drank during pregnancy may look 'normal', but their brain can still be damaged. Drinking alcohol while breastfeeding can harm your baby's brain development. Alcohol can adversely effect a man's sperm.  The effects of alcohol in pregnancy will last a lifetime. It is never too late in your pregnancy to quit drinking alcohol.

If you would like information or have questions regarding the effects of medications, Illnesses, recreational drugs, and other environmental agents on pregnancy or breastfeeding, contact MotherToBaby by calling (866) 626-6847, texting (855) 999-3525, or email/chat via their website at https://mothertobaby.org/ . It is free and confidential.

Many medications and over-the-counter medications may be harmful to the baby. Talk to your health care provider before taking any medication, even aspirin, cough syrup, laxatives or other preparations that you buy at a drug store.

If you would like information or have questions regarding the effects of medications, recreational drugs, and other environmental agents on pregnancy or breastfeeding, contact MotherToBaby by calling (866) 626-6847, texting (855) 999-3525, or email/chat via their website at https://mothertobaby.org/ . It is free and confidential.

There is no safe level for the baby when using drugs. The baby is most vulnerable to the effects of drugs during the first few months of pregnancy- when the woman may not be aware she is pregnant. Babies may be born too little or too early with birth defects or complications. Intellectual deficits and emotional/self-control issues are common complications.

Use of cannabis is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or who plan to become pregnant soon even though it is legal for adults 21 or older to possess, consume, and cultivate cannabis in California. If you would like to know more about effects of cannabis during pregnancy and while breastfeeding please see the CDPH's website "Let's Talk Cannabis". https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/DO/letstalkcannabis

If you would like information or have questions regarding the effects of medications, recreational drugs, and other environmental agents on pregnancy or breastfeeding, contact MotherToBaby by calling (866) 626-6847, texting (855) 999-3525, or email/chat via their website at https://mothertobaby.org/ . It is free and confidential.

There are laws to protect you and your children from violence and shelters to help you leave your partner. Physical abuse during pregnancy is recognized as a significant health and safety risk for both the mother and the baby. For further information call Domestic Violence Solutions (DVS) of Santa Barbara County for Confidential emergency shelter for battered women and their children; 45-day program with support groups, advocacy, parenting classes, and substance abuse education. DVS Crisis lines are open 24 hours a day:

Santa Barbara:

  • (805) 964-0500
  • (805) 964-5245 (24-hour crisis line)

Lompoc/Santa Ynez:

  • (805) 735-1834
  • (805) 736-0965 (24 hour crisis line)

Santa Maria:

  • (805) 928-8701
  • (805) 925-2160 (24-hour crisis line)
  • Health history and physical exam
  • Dental, nutrition, and developmental assessments
  • Immunizations
  • Vision and hearing screening
  • TB, lead, anemia, and other screenings as needed
  • Anticipatory guidance and health education

Yes, immunizations are free for all children under the age of eighteen. Children receive free immunizations during CHDP exams and can qualify for free catch-up immunizations after their initial exams.

Children at highest risk for lead poisoning live or spend time in older housing that has deteriorating lead-based paint or is being renovated. Other sources include handmade ceramic tableware, especially imported ceramics decorated with lead-based glaze or paint; traditional home remedies including Azarcon, Greta, and Pay-loo-ah; traditional cosmetics including Kohl and Surma; some imported candies and food products; and work clothes, shoes and workers exposed to lead on the job.

Wash children's hands and toys often and talk to your child's provider, or your provider if you are pregnant, about getting a blood test to check for lead.

A blood lead test is the only way to know if a child has lead poisoning. Most children with lead poisoning do not look or act sick. Ask your physician when lead tests are done on your child.

SIDS is the sudden death of an infant under one year of age which remains unexplained after a thorough case investigation, including performance of a complete autopsy, examination of the death scene, and review of the clinical history.

Ways to reduce the risk of SIDS:

  1. Place infants to sleep fully on their backs, even though they may sleep more soundly on their stomachs. Infants who sleep on their stomachs and sides have a much higher rate of SIDS than infants who sleep on their backs.
  2. Place infants to sleep in a safety approved crib, basinet, or play yard with a firm mattress. There should be nothing in the bed but the baby - no covers, no pillows, no bumper pads, no positioning devices, and no toys. Soft mattresses and heavy covering are associated with the risk for SIDS.
  3. Keep your baby's crib in the parents' room until the infant is at least 6 months of age. Studies clearly show that infants are safest when their beds are close to their mothers.
  4. Do not place your baby to sleep in an adult bed. Typical adult beds are not safe for babies. Do not fall asleep with your baby on a couch or in a chair.
  5. Avoid exposing the infant to tobacco smoke. Don't have your infant in the same house or car with someone who is smoking. The greater the exposure to tobacco smoke, the greater the risk of SIDS.
  6. Breast feed babies whenever possible. Breast milk decreases the occurrence of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections.
  7. Offer your baby a pacifier. Some studies have shown a lower rate of SIDS among babies who use pacifiers.
  8. Thoroughly discuss each of the above points with all caregivers. If you take your baby to daycare or leave him with a sitter, provide a copy of this list to them. Make sure they follow all recommendations.

Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), a form of child abuse, is a serious injury that occurs when a frustrated person shakes a baby. Crying is the number one reason people shake babies. Shaking back and forth in a whiplash motion causes devastating injury. Shaken Baby Syndrome can cause:

  • Death in one-third of babies
  • Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Seizures
  • Paralyses
  • Lifelong dependence on others
  • Learning and behavior problems

Prevention:

  • Never Shake your Baby or Child.
  • Get someone to trust to care for your baby when you are frustrated.
  • Place the baby in a safe area and take a break for 5 minutes.

After you have a baby, 60-80% of all new mothers experience an emotional let-down. This is the Baby Blues. This occurs in many mothers in the days immediately following childbirth. It is characterized by:

  • Sudden mood swings
  • Sadness
  • Crying
  • Irritability
  • Sense of vulnerability

It can last a few hours or a week or two and resolves itself

Approximately 10-20% of pregnancies result in Postpartum Depression which can occur a few days or even a year after delivery and doesn't go away.The mother may have a lack of interest in her baby and/or thoughts of harming herself or the baby. It often disrupts a women's ability to function. Left untreated, symptoms may worsen and become chronic. PPD is caused by a combination of adjustments to pregnancy and childbirth, both physical and emotional. None are the mother's fault. Postpartum Depression is characterized by:

  • Sadness
  • Despair
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep problems
  • Loss of interest in pleasure

Lasts for weeks or months

For Mild Depression:

  • Get as much sleep as you can
  • Get help from friends, family, others
  • Accept not being able to do everything you used to do
  • Accept the swing of feelings as normal
  • Talk about what is going on with a friend or support group
  • Avoid being alone
  • Get fresh air and exercise
  • Eat a healthy diet with small, frequent meals

For Moderate to Severe Depression:

  • Get help
  • Call your doctor
  • Contact Postpartum Support International for support and resources at 1-888-944-4773 or  http://www.postpartum.net/