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    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.

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    While the women frequently quiet each others pregnancy fears -- exploring symptoms and solutions together -- still, that's only a small part of what each group tackles.

    "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 beyond pregnancy.

    "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 born prematurely.

    Another plus: More than 90% of the women in group go on to breastfeed, which Magriples says is a "phenomenal success story in the clinic setting."

    For babies, studies have suggested that breastfeeding can reduce the risk and severity of many infections and may cut risk of sudden infant death syndrome. It reduces the rates of obesity, diabetes, asthma, and other health problems later in life.

    According to the CDC, 14 states in the U.S. have achieved the national Healthy People 2010 objective of 75% of mothers initiating breastfeeding; whereas only six states have achieved the objective of having 50% of mothers breastfeeding their children at 6 months of age and merely eight states have 25% of mothers breastfeeding their children at 12 months of age.

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