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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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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.

But if you think this program is only valid in low socioeconomic and medically underserved communities, guess again. Rising reports that a number of upscale practices are having great success with centering pregnancy, including one New England chapter.

"This program addresses needs that cross all demographic lines and has something to offer even those who believe they have the best private health care," says Rising.

More recently, the same group of researchers tackled the first randomized study trial comparing centering pregnancy to traditional provider care. It involves patients from Yale and from Emory University in Atlanta. About 650 women followed the model of group care, while 350 were given traditional prenatal care. Although the last woman in the study delivered this month, doctors say follow-up will extend for another year, necessary to garner the full impact of the program.

"We want to see if the habits learned in prenatal care influence how well they care for themselves and their baby in the year that follows," Magriples tells WebMD.

That said, the preliminary data available right now shows the women in the Centering Pregnancy program are the clear winners -- and so are their babies.

The data from the study show that various aspects of the group model for prenatal care improve and favor treatment with this type of model, says Ickovics.

In a special segment of the program known as centering pregnancy plus, some groups also had meetings on sexually transmitted diseases and birth control, and researchers say the impact here is already obvious.

"We are seeing a reduction in short-term repeat pregnancy and a reduction in STD infection among the highest-risk groups," says Ickovics.

Perhaps most important: Patient satisfaction with centering pregnancy is high.

"In a survey I conducted among my own patients, those in group were ecstatic about this model of care -- in some instances, strong friendships have been forged and the women continue to influence each other's lives in a positive and healthful way," says Bernstein.

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