Mia Ornelas, JuniorMajor: Nursing Mentor: Laura Karnitschnig
If you want to help babies, you have to help moms
Initially, Mia Ornelas’s research project focused on problems faced by infants born to mothers who used drugs during pregnancy. Based on her findings, the scope of Ornelas’s research expanded.
During her first semester on the project with faculty mentor Laura Karnitschnig, she compiled health department data and found drug-exposed babies with expected low birth weights and developmental delays.
“Second semester, we addressed the correlation between maternal drug use, intimate partner violence and post-partum depression, because we realized that you can’t really help the baby until you address the factors that are causing the baby to be exposed,” said Ornelas.
The data she gathered repeatedly underscored the association between abused and economically disadvantaged women and drug use and depression and revealed the need for prenatal care for at-risk moms.
“I think we can all agree that the children obviously need help, but we also came to the conclusion that the moms really need help, which is a difficult thing for people to address because addiction has so much stigma behind it.”
Ornelas is a nursing major and her research experience has underscored her belief that every patient deserves the same level of care and empathy. She hopes her research will lead to changes in care for pregnant women—care that will ultimately result in better outcomes for their babies.
“You can’t really help the baby by just treating it after birth,” she said. “Helping the mom leave a dangerous home environment and treating her own mental health—that can help the baby and the entire family dynamic can be changed by that.
Treating both the mom and the baby can make profound impacts. It’s not as easy as taking away these children because the mom uses drugs. These women have the potential to be amazing mothers; they just need help with themselves first in order to be good mothers.”