Centering Yourself for a Healthy Pregnancy
Frustrated by short prenatal visits that leave you with more questions than answers? You might be a candidate for the latest trend in prenatal care.
"If there is any indication of a serious problem, [the patient] is seen
privately for a full exam, either directly following the meeting or the next
day," says Bernstein. In this respect, no benefits of private care are
While each mom is being checked, the others are busy taking their blood
pressure and weighing in -- either on their own or with the help of a nurse --
and then writing the results in their own charts.
"We encourage them to participate in their care as much as possible,
even down to keeping their own charts. They take charge of their pregnancy,
they own that chart, and it's a very empowering feeling," says Rising.
The next step: The women form their chairs in a warming circle of life,
where in a comforting and safe environment, each patient is encouraged to share
her personal pregnancy concerns. Providers and group members give advice and
provide caring together.
"It is like nothing I've ever experienced as a doctor; the compassion
and the nurturing that emerges is phenomenal," says Bernstein. Other
doctors have witnessed similar results.
"I think the whole group concept really engages women in their care in a
way that might be otherwise difficult with provider influence alone," says
Urania Magriples, MD, a Yale professor of obstetrics who was the first in the
nation to train other doctors in the centering care philosophy.
While the women frequently quiet each others pregnancy fears -- exploring
symptoms and solutions together -- still, that's only a small part of what each
"I've had group talks about mother-in-laws, about sex, about fears of
raising a baby, fears of giving birth -- you name it, we've discussed it, which
is something I probably would never get to do with a patient in a private
setting," says Bernstein.
Magriples says the sense of entitlement that follows carries these women
clear into labor and delivery.
"Even the nurses comment that they can always tell the patients who have
gone through group; they are calmer, more prepared, have all the answers
instead of asking all the questions, and they just seem to come through the
experience with a lot more confidence," Magriples tells WebMD.
Additionally Rising says the groups are also instrumental in helping the
women change important health habits, the benefits of which can carry far
"They find themselves exchanging junk food for a healthy diet, quitting
smoking, stopping drinking, and in some instances turning away from substance
abuse -- something that is very difficult to accomplish with provider influence
alone," says Rising.
In the first study of Centering Pregnancy -- published in the journal
Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2003 -- researchers found that the group model
resulted in delivery of infants with higher birth weight, especially infants