UT Dallas Magazine

Psychology Graduate Launches Program for New and Future Mothers

Editors’ Note: This feature appears as it was published in the fall- 2017 edition of UT Dallas Magazine. Titles or faculty members listed may have changed since that time.
Adriana Portillo, who graduated from the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences in spring 2017, volunteers at UT Dallas’ Center for Children and Families Juega Conmigo program.


Adriana Portillo BS’17 saw how some Latina women struggle with where to get answers to questions about managing pregnancy and caring for newborns. So she initiated a program to help — Comenzando Bien, Spanish for “starting off right.”

“We wanted to provide a place where these women feel comfortable and can ask important, personal questions,” Portillo said.

Aimed at Latina and African-American women who are planning for pregnancy, are pregnant or are new mothers, the free, eight-week program is supported by the March of Dimes, UT Dallas’ Center for Children and Families and Portillo’s sorority, Sigma Lambda Gamma.

The program aims to decrease the number of preterm births in predominantly minority communities in Dallas County. The curriculum is bilingual and covers topics such as nutrition during pregnancy, prenatal care and stress management.

“Many of these women have misconceptions, like ‘If I’m not showing, I don’t need to go to my checkup yet because likely the baby is fine.’ Or, ‘If he’s still moving, he’s fine,’” said Portillo, who earned a bachelor’s degree from the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences. “In addition, many of these mothers have a lot of wariness and unease with doctors, primarily because a lot of doctors don’t speak Spanish. So they feel uncomfortable being asked personal questions.”

Portillo initially came to UTD as a neuroscience major but realized that she was better suited for psychology and child learning and development. She had already developed a passion for working with children while working as a nanny and also helping her special-needs brother. She is enthusiastic about the program.

“I’m very excited to see mothers attend and I’m very excited to break a lot of misinformation that some women have about pregnancy and parenting,” she said. “I really do hope this class can make mothers feel at ease and comfortable about having their babies, and understand that the class is a safe place. I want to encourage them that anything is possible.”