CenteringPregnancy: An Innovative Approach to Prenatal Care

Hilda Abraham (center) and other participants in a CenteringPregnancy group meeting.

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.