CenteringPregnancy: An Innovative Approach to Prenatal Care
Hilda Abraham hesitates in the doorway of the room with her hand over her pregnant belly. Glancing around, she sees a scale and blood pressure monitor. Then she breaks into a grin as she notices the other women in the group seated in the circle, waving hello.
Ms. Abraham will have a check-up and ultrasound in the next few minutes, but this isn’t your typical prenatal visit. She is here for her two-hour CenteringPregnancy group where 8-10 pregnant women at comparable stages meet weekly to learn baby care skills, participate in a facilitated discussion about parenting topics, and connect with peers.
The Greater Prince William Community Health Center (GPWCHC) is the first federally-qualified health center in Virginia to use this nationally recognized curriculum, an innovative model that helps women build a support network during pregnancy while also receiving important prenatal care. The model was developed by the Centering Healthcare Institute, a non-profit focused on improving maternal and child health through evidence-based Centering groups.
During each visit, Lisa Wiener, GPWCHC Prenatal Director, first assesses the physical health of each pregnant woman and her baby behind a partition in a corner of the room. Afterward, group members gather in a circle to discuss a different topic each week, such as oral health for mom and baby, breastfeeding, postpartum depression, or immunizations babies need. But many women who participate value the peer support the most.
“Before coming to this group, I thought I was alone in certain feelings and experiences. Now I know, it’s not just me,” said Ms. Abraham.
Ms. Wiener says that GPWCHC’s CenteringPregnancy program has had an impact on the health of both the women and their babies. It has resulted in fewer low birth-weight babies, lower infant mortality rates, lower rates of maternal depression, and higher rates of breast-feeding, compared to women who don’t participate in the program.
“They are more likely to show up for their appointments,” said Ms. Wiener. “Seeing this many women at one time also has the side benefit of making care more efficient. It’s a win-win,” she added.
About Greater Prince William Community Health Center
The Greater Prince William Community Health Center serves Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park. It provides primary, prenatal, dental, and behavioral health care to all residents, regardless of age, income, or insurance status. The typical CenteringPregnancy participant mirrors the demographics of residents they serve, including Latina, Caucasian, African American, African, Middle Eastern women from lower to middle income levels. About 47 percent of those who walk in their doors receive Medicaid.
Nearly one in five women in Prince William County forgo early prenatal care.
CenteringPregnancy serves 8-10 patients at a time, compared to one at a typical OB visit.
Since the program started three years ago:
- 6% of participants had babies at low birth-weight compared to 8% of non-participants.
- 78% of participants reported decreased feelings of depression at the 6-week postpartum visit.
- 90% of women who completed the program breastfeed compared to 80% who did not participate.