A pregnancy center devoted to the needs of foreign brides was yesterday formally inaugurated at the Taipei City Women's and Children's Hospital.
"The Service Center for Immigrant Pregnant Women is the first of its kind in Taiwan," said Lin Chen-li (林陳立), chief of the maternal and fetal medicine department and head of the service center.
The clinic will establish a health network that will help immigrant mothers through all the stages of pregnancy.
"The women register when they find out they are pregnant, and the clinic will contact them with prenatal care information which depends on the stage of their pregnancy," Lin said.
Lin explained the need for such a center, highlighting language barriers and the young ages of many foreign brides when they get married. He also said that, in general, premature births were more common among foreign mothers.
"Most foreign brides come from either China or Southeast Asia. About 30 percent of the immigrant brides from Southeast Asia are under the age of 20," Lin said.
The center will be staffed by volunteers who will serve as translators for patients and will provide patients with translated educational information packs. Lin said that the volunteers are native speakers of Vietnamese and Indonesian and have been given basic medical training.
In addition, the center will offer several free-of-charge or discounted health examinations especially crucial for Southeast Asian mothers. Lin said that many Southeast Asian brides marry into low-income households unable to provide them with the necessary prenatal care.
"Men that seek Southeast Asian brides are usually from a poorer financial background. In a lot of cases, the bride is brought into the family in order to give birth to children despite the fact that they are not ready to do so," Lin said.
Thanks to financial subsidies provided by the Taipei City Government, the clinic plans to offer gratis first-trimester high-resolution ultrasound examinations.
According to Lin, the examination would make it possible to detect infant abnormalities within the first three months of pregnancy, instead of having to wait until at least the fourth month as in the case of traditional ultrasound examinations.
The center also provides subsidized genetic assessment exams, covering about one-third of the costs of such tests.
"It's particularly important that Southeast Asian brides get genetically tested before pregnancy. Due to the family circumstances that they marry into, the newborns of Southeast Asian mothers fall in a high-risk group for many genetic disorders, including congenital growth retardation," Lin said.
Foreign brides are also eligible to receive free birth control pills and intrauterine devices (IUDs) at the clinic.
The center reflects the need to provide health care for a growing sector of society. 1,669 immigrant brides were married in Taipei last year, or roughly 8 percent of last year's newly wed brides. The trend is similar throughout Taiwan. Of the 173,343 brides married last year in Taiwan, 16,746 were from Southeast Asia, or approximately 9.7 percent. Another 27,626, about 15 percent, were from China.