Helping first-time mothers find their center

“I love the education component,” first-time mom Ari Foster, 25, said just two months away from giving birth to her first child. “It takes away the feeling of being overwhelmed, knowing I have (more) time to talk to professionals.”

Foster is receiving her prenatal care in a group-centered program called CenteringPregnancy now being offered by the University of South Carolina School of Medicine’s obstetrics and gynecology department at University Specialty Clinics. CenteringPregnancy is gaining popularity, as a way to provide prenatal care and education about what to expect during pregnancy and delivery. Groups are facilitated by nurse practitioners or physicians with specialized training and expertise in providing prenatal care and co-facilitated by nursing staff. During each two-hour group session, the women spend individual time with the nurse practitioner or physician just as they would in traditional care. They spend the remaining time involved in group education and sharing, which promotes bonding, new friendships and the free flow of information.

CenteringPregnancy is a national model of group prenatal care maintained by the Centering Healthcare Institute based in Boston. University Specialty Clinics was selected in a competitive bidding process to implement CenteringPregnancy as part of a planned expansion of the program in South Carolina. Greenville Hospital System has been providing centering care for several years and is coordinating the South Carolina expansion with sponsorship by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and March of Dimes.

“We are pleased to offer CenteringPregnancy to women in the Columbia area, as group-centered prenatal care fills a niche not currently offered in the community,” said Judith T. Burgis, M.D., professor and chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the School of Medicine. “CenteringPregnancy empowers women to participate in their own care and become better parents. Research has shown that centering can improve patient satisfaction and health outcomes. We welcome inquiries and are accepting new patients.”

The program is designed for women with uncomplicated pregnancies and is ideal for first-time mothers. Patients see their health care provider for the first prenatal appointment, participate in CenteringPregnancy for 10 group sessions, then return to traditional care with their health care provider for the last month of pregnancy and  delivery.

“It’s my first child, but it’s not my first pregnancy.” Siulee Diaz’s words reveal some of the apprehension she felt as she approached her July due date. She had a miscarriage in the first trimester of her first pregnancy and had more than the usual worry during her second pregnancy. The 20-year-old is just one of dozens of women who have become involved in the centering approach to prenatal care at University Specialty Clinics.

The group sessions are where the women – all with due dates within a month of each other – share their experiences. Diaz had a miscarriage at 11 weeks about a year before she found out she was pregnant again.

“It was hard for me,” she said. “I was thinking more of the worst rather than the better, just the thought of maybe tomorrow, I won’t feel her. This is helping me not be too scared. I can talk to everybody. It’s really cool just to see somebody else going through the same thing.”

Women like the centering approach in which they go straight to the group location with no time spent in the waiting room. Groups start on time and end on time. Fathers or other birthing partners attend certain sessions such as the labor and delivery sessions. The same facilitator and co-facilitator stay with the group throughout the 10 sessions.

For Foster, the biggest fear was breastfeeding.

“It was just all the horror stories and not knowing much about it,” said Foster, who is a homework lab instructor at the Fort Jackson Youth Center and is working on a master’s degree in social work. “My mom didn’t breastfeed. I wasn’t raised around it and knew nothing about it. I knew overall that it was healthier for the baby, but as far as the pumps and scheduling and symptoms and other stuff, I had questions about that.”

After CenteringPregnancy sessions, Foster said she planned to breastfeed her baby.

“I get more confidence with each visit,” she said. “I feel like it’s getting me ready for that moment.”

“We do everything that would be done in a regular OB visit but, in addition, we have more time for patient education,” said Beverly Huegel, M.S.N., a nurse practitioner who is a facilitator for University Specialty Clinics’ CenteringPregnancy groups. “The result is improved patient satisfaction. In other practices where they have been doing this for years, patients often come back with their second pregnancy for the camaraderie.”

According to Centering Healthcare Institute data, women in centering care have a 94 percent satisfaction rate compared with a 72 percent satisfaction rate for women in traditional prenatal care. Nationally, graduates of the program tend to have healthier and heavier babies – about one pound larger – than average. Women in the program have lower rate of preterm births and are more likely than others to breastfeed.

In today’s transient society, young mothers may find themselves without the benefit of having extended family members close by. Through the Centering model, women feel educated, reassured and confident that they can handle pregnancy, delivery and the first few weeks at home.

Learn more

For more information on CenteringPregnancy at University Specialty Clinics, call 803-545-5762.

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