Group-based prenatal care is the #1 choice for many moms-to-be
Healthcare is changing, and prenatal care is no exception.
One growing trend is group-based care, which is becoming popular for helping to manage problems such as diabetes and weight loss. The “group” mentality provides support, problem-solving and education — along with a fun environment for expectant moms who participate. In addition, from a healthcare-reform perspective, group-based care allows healthcare providers a cost-effective way to work with their patients.
Expectant-Mom Power Network
The pioneer in group-based prenatal care is CenteringPregnancy, which integrates health assessment, education and support into group visits. Created in 1993 by nurse-midwife Sharon Schindler Rising, who got tired of answering the same questions repeatedly, this group-care model provides a support network for expectant mothers.
A doctor or midwife facilitates the group. Each group typically consists of 8 to 12 women with similar due dates. There are approximately ten one-to-two-hour sessions throughout the group’s pregnancy and during the early postpartum period. The healthcare provider completes standard physical health assessments within the group space. A major goal of this model of care is to empower women to make good choices for the health of their pregnancy.
Group-based prenatal care is gaining in popularity. Participants enjoy the support of their pregnancy “contemporaries,” and have more time with their healthcare provider since each session lasts longer than traditional one-on-one prenatal care with a physician. This care model also allows for a broader array of issues to be covered.
Some groups include presentations and discussions about nutrition, pain relief in labor and delivery, breastfeeding and baby care. Such important issues are integrated right into the curriculum of the group visits. The groups promote an energetic and supportive atmosphere for learning and sharing that is not possible in a one-on-one encounter. With traditional-care models, these types of issues usually are arranged and covered separately, in special childbirth-education classes.
Preliminary studies evaluating group-based prenatal care demonstrate improved health outcomes for babies. These improvements include decreased preterm delivery and a higher birth weight for babies, particularly among preterm babies. One theory for these benefits is that group-based care reduces maternal stress, which decreases the stress in the environment in the womb, allowing for better oxygen and nutrient supply to the fetus.
Hearing other women share issues and solutions similar to their own helps moms-to-be normalize the experience of pregnancy. Groups can be empowering as they provide support and also increase individual motivation to learn and change by seeing what others in the same situation have accomplished. This peer pressure helps support behavioral changes that make a positive impact. Studies show that both the women and their providers are extremely satisfied and happy with this model of healthcare.
Is Centering for You?
The group model might not appeal to everyone. Some women prefer more privacy than a group setting allows. Some insurers might not cover this kind of care, and not all women can carve out one to two hours for an office visit. However, for a growing number of women, group-based prenatal care is their preferred choice. New groups are cropping up in many states around the country. If you’re interested, ask your provider if groups exist in the area where you plan to deliver.