Group Prenatal Care Builds Community

By Maria Allen

It’s normal for expectant parents to experience feelings of anxiety as well as excitement, but a new style of prenatal care called “Centering” aims to reduce some of the stress and fear surrounding pregnancy by bringing pregnant women and their spouses together with other couples.

For the past three years, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital Plymouth (BIDP) has been offering its incoming maternity patients the option of attending Centering sessions as an alternative to traditional one-on-one doctor visits. These regularly scheduled, monthly, small-group appointments are made up of women who are at similar stages of pregnancy (often accompanied by their husbands) and include individual health assessments as well as informative group discussions. The groups are facilitated by certified nurse midwives but participants always have the choice of delivering their babies with either a physician or a midwife.

“Centering is a very patient-friendly model,” says Dr. Brigid McCue, medical director of the maternity program at BIDP. “ Participants have great support from one another and first-time parents can learn a lot from those who are on their second or third pregnancy.”

While not appealing to everyone, the social dynamic of Centering is making it an increasingly attractive option, allowing couples to listen and learn from one another’s pregnancy experiences and helping them to feel better prepared for labor, birth and infant care. Participants also develop a support network of other local moms and dads and a sense of community within the group.

“I met one of my closest friends through the Centering program,” says Sandwich resident Nikki DeNardo, who attended sessions at BIDP’s Cape Cod office together with her husband. “We started getting together for dinners and playdates and I never would have met her if we didn’t attend sessions together.”

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