Through focus groups, [Ailene] Ly discovered that Vietnamese clients, when told to follow certain guidelines, felt they were being asked to trade in traditional values passed down through many generations.
For example, many Vietnamese clients insist on consuming thuoc bac, an herbal broth made from blackened chicken and dried roots that is believed to keep the body strong during pregnancy and postpartum.
But Ly said many of the herbs are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug administration and could be harmful to the fetus or to breast milk.
Many of her clients’ mothers say in disbelief, “I did it. My parents did it. I grew up healthy and reared a healthy child, and now you’re telling me it’s not safe?”
The cultural dispute over herbal remedies and other issues takes more than language skills to solve, said Annie Nguyen, a VietMOMS counselor.
“We have to respect the traditions because those are held within our culture,” Nguyen said. “I’m not going to tell her directly that the beliefs are wrong, but I want to give the clients options.”